Archive for November 8th, 2006

Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

Lincoln delivered this famous speech, noted for the phrase “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” when accepting the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Illinois in June of 1858. In July of that year he challenged his Democrat opponent, Stephen Douglas to a series of debates over admitting Kansas into the union as a slave state, and, to a large extent, over the future of slavery and of the union itself. Lincoln, of course, represented the anti-slavery position. The skill with which Lincoln debated Douglas helped catapult him to the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1860, a race which he won.

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. What will eventually happen to a “house divided,” according to Lincoln?
2. What does Lincoln mean by “the Nebraska doctrine?”
3. What is Lincoln talking about when he described “timbers?” Hint: think metaphorically.

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”
Abraham Lincoln, June 1858

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION: If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifty year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting and end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let any one who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State constitutions, and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” otherwise called “sacred right of self-government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object… Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “squatter sovereignty” and “sacred right of self-government. “But,” said opposition members, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case involving the question of a negro’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then into a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro’s name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to and was argued in the Supreme Court of the United States…

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained… The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument. The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the Court; but the incoming President in his inaugural address fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the bred Scott Decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much, and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott Decision “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding, — like the mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back into loose sand, — helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds…

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen, — Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance, -and we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck…

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by, its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for the result. Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter now? — now when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.

Primary source assignment

Find three examples of primary source documents posted from chapters 1-10, and 1 example of a secondary source posted from the first ten chapters. You need to write the title of the post and the author. You do not need to print the actual documents.

Find 1 NEW primary source on one of the following topics, and bring it with you to class on Monday:
–Compromise of 1850
–Dred Scott case
–Bleeding Kansas
–Lincoln-Douglas debates
–pro-secession documents from the South

Bring these with you to class on Monday.

South Carolina calls other Southern states to join her in secession

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. What is the first reason that South Carolina gives for the problems between North and South? Why is this interesting?
2. Why does this document speak of the US Constitution in the past tense? What other indications are there in word choice, tone, or statement which indicate a sense of separation from the rest of the United States?
3. How does the author compare the situation of the South at this time with the situation of the American colonies in the 1770s?
4. Who is the “one who has openly declared that all the States of the United States must be made Free States or Slave States” spoken of near the end of the document?

The Address of the people of South Carolina, assembled in Convention, to the people of the Slaveholding States of the United States

Robert Barnwell Rhett, 1861

It is now seventy-three years since the union between the United States was made by the Constitution of the United States. During this period their advance in wealth, prosperity, and power, has been with scarcely a parallel in the history of the world. The great object of their union was external defence from the aggressions of more powerful nations; now complete, from their more progress in power, thirty-one millions of people, with a commerce and navigation which explores every sea, and of agricultural productions which are necessary to every civilized people, command the friendship of the world. But, unfortunately, our internal peace has not grown with our external prosperity. Discontent and contention has moved in the bosom of the Confederacy for the last thirty-five years. During this time South Carolina has twice called her people together in solemn convention, to take into consideration the aggressions and unconstitutional wrongs perpetrated by the people of the North on the people of the South. These wrongs were submitted to by the people of the South, under the hope and expectation that they would be final. But these hopes and expectations have proved to be void. Instead of being incentives to forbearance, our submission has only instigated to new forms of aggressions and outrage, and South Carolina, again assembling her people in convention, has this day dissolved her connection with the States constituting the United States.

The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed, is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the government of a confederate republic, but of a consolidated democracy. It is no longer a free government, but a despotism. It is, in fact, such a government as Great Britain attempted to set over our fathers, and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for independence.

The revolution of 1776 turned upon one great principle, self-government, and self-taxation the criterion of self-government. Where the interests of two people united together under one Government are different, each must have the power to protect its interests by the organization of the Government, or they cannot be free. The interests of Great Britain and of the colonies were different and antagonistic. Great Britain was desirous of carrying out the policy of all nations toward their colonies of making them tributary to their wealth and power. She had vast and complicated relations with the whole world. Her policy toward her North American colonies was to identify them with her in all these complicated relations, and to make them bear, in common with the rest of the empire, the full burden of her obligations and necessities. She had a vast public debt; she had a European policy and an Asiatic policy, which had occasioned the accumulation of her public debt, and which kept her in continual wars. The North American colonies saw their interests, political and commercial, sacrificed by such a policy. Their interests required that they should not be identified with the burdens and wars of the mother country. They had been settled under charters which gave them self-government, at least so far as their property was concerned. They had taxed themselves, and had never been taxed by the Government of Great Britain. To make them a part of a consolidated empire the Parliament of Great Britain determined to assume the power of legislating for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. Our ancestors resisted the pretension. They refused to be a part of the consolidated Government of Great Britain.

The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position toward the Northern States that our ancestors in the colonies did toward Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament. “The general welfare” is the only limit to the legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, as in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this “general welfare” requires. Thus the Government of the United States has become a consolidated Government, and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.

The consolidation of the Government of Great Britain over the colonies was attempted to be carried out by the taxes. The British Parliament undertook to tax the colonies to promote British interests. Our fathers resisted this pretension. They claimed the right of self-taxation through their Colonial Legislatures. They were not represented in the British Parliament, and therefore could not rightfully be taxed by its Legislature. The British Government, however, offered them a representation in the British Parliament; but it was not sufficient to enable them to protect themselves from the majority, and they refused it. Between taxation without any representation, and taxation without a representation adequate to protection, there was no difference By neither would the colonies tax themselves. Hence they refused to pay the taxes paid by the British Parliament.

The Southern States now stand in the same relation toward the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation, that our ancestors stood toward the people of Great Britain. They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation, and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British Parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years the taxes laid by the Congress of the United States have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North. The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue — to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures.

There is another evil in the condition of the Southern toward the Northern States, which our ancestors refused to bear toward Great Britain. Our ancestors not only taxed themselves, but all the taxes collected from them were expended among them. Had they submitted to the pretensions of the British Government, the taxes collected from them would have been expended on other parts of the British Empire. They were fully aware of the effect of such a policy in impoverishing the people from whom taxes are collected, and in enriching those who receive the benefit of their expenditure. To prevent the evils of such a policy was one of the motives which drove them on to revolution. Yet this British policy has been fully realized toward the Southern States by the Northern States. The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States, but after the taxes are collected three-fourths of them are expended at the North. This cause, with others connected with the operation of the General Government, has provincialized the cities of the South. Their growth is paralyzed, while they are the mere suburbs of Northern cities. The bases of the foreign commerce of the United States are the agricultural productions of the South; yet Southern cities do not carry it on. Our foreign trade is almost annihilated. In 1740 there were five shipyards in South Carolina to build ships to carry on our direct trade with Europe. Between 1740 and 1779 there were built in these yards twenty-five square-rigged vessels, beside a great number of sloops and schooners to carry on our coast and West India trade. In the half century immediately preceding the Revolution, from 1725 to 1775, the population of South Carolina increased seven-fold.

No man can for a moment believe that our ancestors intended to establish over their posterity exactly the same sort of Government they had overthrown. The great object of the Constitution of the United States, in its internal operation, was, doubtless, to secure the great end of the Revolution — a limited free Government — a Government limited to those matters only which were general and common to all portions of the United States. All sectional or local interests were to be left to the States. By no other arrangement would they obtain free government by a Constitution common to so vast a Confederacy. Yet, by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the North, and submission on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away, and the Government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.

It is not at all surprising, while such is the character of the Government of the United States, that it should assume to possess power over all the institutions of the country. The agitations on the subject of Slavery in the South are the natural results of the consolidation of the Government. Responsibility follows power; and if the people of the North have the power by Congress “to promote the general welfare of the United States,” by any means they deem expedient, why should they not assail and overthrow the institution of Slavery in the South? They are responsible for its continuance or existence, in proportion to their power. A majority in Congress, according to their interested and perverted views, is omnipotent. The inducements to act upon the subject of Slavery, under such circumstances, were so imperious as to amount almost to a moral necessity. To make, however, their numerical power available to rule the Union, the North must consolidate their power. It would not be united on any matter common to the whole Union — in other words, on any constitutional subject — for on such subjects divisions are as likely to exist in the North as in the South. Slavery was strictly a sectional interest. If this could be made the criterion of parties at the North, the North could be united in its power, and thus carry out its measures of sectional ambition, encroachment, and aggrandizement. To build up their sectional predominance in the Union, the Constitution must be first abolished by constructions; but that being done, the consolidation of the North to rule the South, by the tariff and Slavery issues, was in the obvious course of things.

The Constitution of the United States was an experiment. The experiment consisted in uniting under one Government different peoples, living in different climates, and having different pursuits of industry and institutions. It matters not how carefully the limitations of such a government are laid down in the constitution — its success must at least depend upon the good faith of the parties to the constitutional compact in enforcing them. It is not in the power of human language to exclude false inferences, constructions, and perversions, in any constitution; and when vast sectional interests are to be subserved involving the appropriation of countless millions of money it has not been the usual experience of mankind that words on parchment can arrest power. The Constitution of the United States, irrespective of the interposition of the States, rested on the assumption that power would yield to faith — that integrity would be stronger than interest, and that thus the limitations of the Constitution would be observed. The experiment has been fairly made. The Southern States, from the commencement of the Government, have striven to keep it within the orbit prescribed by the Constitution. The experiment has failed. The whole Constitution by the constructions of the Northern people, has been swallowed up by a few words in its preamble. In their reckless lust for power they seem unable to comprehend that seeming paradox, that the more power is given to the General Government the weaker it becomes. Its strength consists in its generality and limitations. To extend the scope of its power over sectional or local interests is to raise up against it opposition and resistance. In all such matters the General Government must necessarily be a despotism, because all sectional or local interests must ever be represented by a minority in the councils of the General Government — having no power to protect itself against the rule of the majority. The majority, constituted from those who do not represent these sectional or local interests, will control and govern them. A free people cannot submit to such a Government; and the more it enlarges the sphere of its power the greater must be the dissatisfaction it must produce, and the weaker it must become. On the contrary, the more it abstains from usurped powers, and the more faithfully it adheres to the limitations of the Constitution, the stronger it is made. The Northern people have had neither the wisdom nor the faith to perceive that to observe the limitation of the Constitution was the only way to its perpetuity.

Under such a Government there must, of course, be many and endless “irrepressible conflicts,” between the two great sections of the Union. The same faithlessness which has abolished the Constitution of the United States, will not fail to carry out the sectional purposes for which it has been abolished. There must be conflict; and the weaker section of the Union can only find peace and liberty in an independence of the North. The repeated efforts made by South Carolina, in a wise conservatism, to arrest the progress of the General Government in its fatal progress to consolidation, have been unsupported and denounced as faithless to the obligations of the Constitution by the very men and States who were destroying it by their usurpations. It is now too late to reform or restore the Government of the United States. All confidence in the North is lost in the South. The faithlessness of half a century has opened a gulf of separation between them which no promises or engagements can fill. It cannot be believed that our ancestors would have assented to any union whatever with the people of the North if the feelings and opinions now existing among them had existed when the Constitution was framed. There was then no tariff — no negro fanaticism. It was the delegates from New England who proposed in the Convention which framed the Constitution, to the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia, that if they would agree to give Congress the power of regulating commerce by a majority, that they would support the extension of the African slave-trade for twenty years. African Slavery existed in all the States but one. The idea that they would be made to pay that tribute to their Northern confederates which they had refused to pay to Great Britain, or that the institution of African Slavery would be made the grand basis of a sectional organization of the North to rule the South, never crossed their imaginations. The Union of the Constitution was a Union of slaveholding States. It rests on Slavery, by prescribing a representation in Congress for three-fifths of our slaves. There is nothing in the proceedings of the Convention which framed the Constitution to show that the Southern States would have formed any other union; and still less that they would have formed a union with more powerful non-slaveholding States, having a majority in both branches of the Legislature of the Government. They were guilty of no such folly. Time and the progress of things have totally altered the relations between the Northern and Southern States since the Union was first established. That identity of feeling, interests, and institutions which once existed is gone. They are now divided between agricultural and manufacturing and commercial States — between slaveholding and non-slaveholding States. Their institutions and industrial pursuits have made them totally different peoples. That equality in the Government between the two sections of the Union which once existed, no longer exists. We but imitate the policy of our fathers in dissolving a union with non-slaveholding confederates, and seeking a confederation with slave-holding States.

Experience has proved that slave-holding States can not be safe in subjection to non-slaveholding States. Indeed, no people ever expect to preserve their rights and liberties unless they are in their own custody. To plunder and oppress where plunder and oppression can be practiced with impunity, seems to be the natural order of things. The fairest portions of the world have been turned into wildernesses, and the most civilized and prosperous communities have been impoverished and ruined by Anti-Slavery fanaticism. The people of the North have not left us in doubt as to their designs and policy. United as a section in the late Presidential election, they have elected as the exponent of their policy one who has openly declared that all the States of the United States must be made Free States or Slave States. It is true that among those who aided in this election, there are various shades of Anti-Slavery hostility. But if African Slavery in the Southern States be the evil their political combinations affirm it to be, the requisitions of an inexorable logic must lead them to emancipation. If it is right to preclude or abolish Slavery in a territory, why should it be allowed to remain in the States? The one is not at all more unconstitutional than the other, according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. And when it is considered that the Northern States will soon have the power to make that Court what they please, and that the Constitution has never been any barrier whatever to their exercise of power, what check can there be in the unrestrained councils of the North to emancipation? There is sympathy in association, which carries men along without principle; but when there is principle, and that principle is fortified by long existing prejudices and feelings, association is omnipotent in party influences. In spite of all disclaimers and professions there can be but one end to the submission by the South to the rule of a sectional Anti-Slavery Government at Washington; and that end, directly or indirectly, must be the emancipation of the slaves of the South. The hypocrisy of thirty years — the faithlessness of their whole course from the commencement of our union with them — show that the people of the non-slaveholding North are not and cannot be safe associates of the slaveholding South under a common Government. Not only their fanaticism, but their erroneous views of the principles of free governments, render it doubtful whether, separated from the South, they can maintain a free Government among themselves. Brute numbers with them is the great element of free Government. A majority is infallible and omnipotent. “The right divine to rule in kings” is only transferred to their majority. The very object of all constitutions, in free, popular Governments, is to restrain the majority. Constitutions, therefore, according to their theory, must be most unrighteous inventions, restricting liberty. None ought to exist, but the body politic ought simply to have a political organization, to bring out and enforce the will of a majority. This theory may be harmless in a small community, having an identity of interests and pursuits, but over a vast State — still more, over a vast Confederacy, having various and conflicting interests and pursuits — it is a remorseless despotism. In resisting it, as applicable to ourselves, we are vindicating the great cause of free government, more important, perhaps, to the world than the existence of the United States. Nor in resisting it, do we intend to depart from the safe instrumentality the system of government we have established with them requires. In separating from them we invade no rights — no interest of theirs. We violate no obligation of duty to them. As separate, independent States in Convention, we made the Constitution of the United States with them; and as separate, independent States, each State acting for itself, we adopted it. South Carolina, acting in her sovereign capacity now thinks proper to secede from the Union. She did not part with her sovereignty in adopting the Constitution. The last thing a State can be presumed to have surrendered is her sovereignty. Her sovereignty is her life. Nothing but a clear, express grant, can alienate it. Inference should be dumb. Yet it is not at all surprising that those who have construed away all the limitations of the Constitution, should also by construction claim the annihilation of the sovereignty of the States. Having abolished all barriers to their omnipotence by their faithless constructions in the operations of the General Government, it is most natural that they should endeavor to do the same toward us in the States. The truth is, they having violated the express provisions of the Constitution, it is at an end as a compact. It is morally obligatory only on those who choose to accept its perverted terms. South Carolina, deeming the compact not only violated in particular features, but virtually abolished by her Northern confederates, withdraws herself as a party from its obligations. The right to do so is denied by her Northern confederates. They desire to establish a despotism, not only omnipotent in Congress, but omnipotent over the States; and as if to manifest the imperious necessity of our secession, they threaten us with the sword, to coerce submission to their rule.

Citizens of the slaveholding States of the United States, circumstances beyond our control have placed us in the van of the great controversy between the Northern and Southern States. We would have preferred that other States should have assumed the position we now occupy. Independent ourselves, we disclaim any design or desire to lead the councils of the other Southern States. Providence has cast our lot together, by extending over us an identity of pursuits, interests, and institutions. South Carolina desires no destiny separated from yours. To be one of a great slaveholding confederacy, stretching its arms over a territory larger than any Power in Europe possesses — with population four times greater than that of the whole United States when they achieved their independence of the British Empire — with productions which make our existence more important to the world than that of any other people inhabiting it — with common institutions to defend, and common dangers to encounter — we ask your sympathy and confederation. While constituting a portion of the United States, it has been your statesmanship which has guided it in its mighty strides to power and expansion. In the field, as in the Cabinet, you have led the way to its renown and grandeur. You have loved the Union, in whose service your great statesmen have labored, and your great soldiers have fought and conquered — not for the material benefits it conferred, but with the faith of a generous and devoted chivalry. You have long lingered and hoped over the shattered remains of a broken Constitution. Compromise after compromise, formed by your concessions, has been trampled under foot by your Northern confederates. All fraternity of feeling between the North and the South is lost, or has been converted into hate; and we of the South are at last driven together by the stern destiny which controls the existence of nations. Your bitter experience of the faithlessness and rapacity of your Northern confederates may have been necessary to evolve those great principles of free government, upon which the liberties of the world depend, and to prepare you for the grand mission of vindicating and re- establishing them. We rejoice that other nations should be satisfied with their institutions. Self-complacency is a great element of happiness, with nations as with individuals. We are satisfied with ours. If they prefer a system of industry in which capital and labor are in perpetual conflict — and chronic starvation keeps down the natural increase of population — and a man is worked out in eight years — and the law ordains that children shall be worked only ten hours a day — and the sabre and bayonet are the instruments of order — be it so. It is their affair, not ours. We prefer, however, our system of industry, by which labor and capital are identified in interest, and capital, therefore, protects labor; by which our population doubles every twenty years; by which starvation is unknown, and abundance crowns the land; by which order is preserved by unpaid police, and the most fertile regions of the world where the Caucasian cannot labor are brought into usefulness by the labor of the African, and the whole world is blessed by our own productions. All we demand of other peoples is to be let alone to work out our own high destinies. United together, and we must be the most independent, as we are the most important among the nations of the world. United together, and we require no other instrument to conquer peace than our beneficent productions. United together, and we must be a great, free and prosperous people, whose renown must spread throughout the civilized world, and pass down, we trust, to the remotest ages. We ask you to join us in forming a confederacy of Slaveholding States.

Sources: Library of Congress: Edward McPherson’s Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion.

Links for more information:
These are some questions from the University of New Hampshire regarding this document.

A Short History of the Mason-Dixon Line

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. Where exactly is the Mason-Dixon Line?
2. Why is it important?

THE MASON-DIXON LINE: A Short History
By Robert B. Van Atta
GREENSBURG, PA. TRIBUNE-REVIEW Sunday, November 12, 2000

Some 237 years ago this week, two English astronomers arrived in Philadelphia with their geodetic and other instruments to begin determination of the southern border of Pennsylvania. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon worked for 58 months in plotting much of the line between this state and Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (which included what is today West Virginia). However, that survey was not finally completed until 1782 by Col. Alexander McClean of Fayette County.

Mason and Dixon arrived Nov. 15, 1763, and by the time the line was accepted by Virginia, the task had consumed 23 years. During that interval, there were many major events caused by the border dispute, even a war. The boundary dispute dated as far back as 1681, generated by exploratory titles or grants, inadequate maps, geographic errors, and carelessness of English kings in making land grants. The 1681 date came from the charter granted that March to the Penns for a territory “between Maryland and New York.” When that Penn charter was granted, Lord Baltimore (a titled member of the Calvert family of Maryland) was advised to confer with William Penn to establish a boundary. It was recognized that the grant language was geographically impossible in its descriptions. Conferences by their representatives went on for some time, with numerous ramifications and strategic actions by both colonies to strengthen their claims. Various actions were taken by English kings to try to spur settlement.

The situation was further complicated by changes in Maryland by Calvert family members and
inconsistent inheritance provisions after William Penn’s death. Taxes were difficult, if not impossible, to collect in the disputed area and border incidents increased, particularly with Virginia. A court case initiated in 1735 in England had a 1750 decision that was unrealistic from both survey and scientific standpoints. In 1760, as problems increased following start of southwestern Pennsylvania settlement, commissioners were appointed to see the survey through, but could not meet legal requirements.

As chaotic conditions persisted, the colonies’ proprietors sought the aid of England’s royal astronomer. The result was the appointment of Mason and Dixon. After their arrival in November 1763, they began a prescribed and quite scientific procedure for resolving the boundary. They slowly and thoroughly with their party surveyed westward until they reached Dunkard Creek, near later Mt. Morris in what became Greene County, at about the point where Interstate 79 today crosses the border with West Virginia. The Indian escort informed the group that the Indian chiefs’ commission ended there, and in 1768 Mason and Dixon considered their work completed.

That work was not resumed until 1782, but the political aspects of the border dispute heated up. As other colonial problems and eventually the Revolution intervened, Virginia and Pennsylvania had major problems. Both had government and court systems in southwestern Pennsylvania. The same land, in many cases, was conveyed to two different owners by the two states after land grants in this portion of Pennsylvania became possible in 1769. Incidents involving the courts, including violence, were frequent in Westmoreland County after it was formed in 1773 to include all of southwestern Pennsylvania.

When in 1771 the king of England appointed John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, as Virginia governor, trouble accelerated. What was called Dunmore’s War started in 1774 when the earl issued a proclamation asserting the claim of Virginia to all the territory west of the Laurel Hill mountainous area. Virginia’s interest in the area had accelerated greatly from the Ohio Company’s expansion of trade, beginning with Gist and Washington explorations. The effort stirred reaction from Gov. Penn, and a series of events that make it a chapter in history itself.

Dunmore dispatched a relative named John Connolly to enforce the earl’s edict. Connolly raised militia forces, ostensibly to protect against Indians, but actually to advance Virginia’s interests. They took brief possession of Fort Pitt, and changed its name to Fort Dunmore. Connolly was arrested by Westmoreland County officials and jailed at Hanna’s Town, the county seat. Released after posting bail, he returned to Hanna’s Town with 150 armed men, arrested some of the county justices, and took them to Virginia. The “bandit gang,” as locals called the Virginians, cut a wide swath locally that summer of 1774. Justice Gen. Arthur St. Clair raised militia, built forts and blockhouses, and regained Fort Pitt.

Connolly returned that fall and released all Westmoreland prisoners, including two murderers, and arrested a Pennsylvania colonial official. The Continental Congress and others tried to work out a truce until borders could be definitively established. Because of the unrest, not many crops could be planted that summer, and a severe winter of 1774-75 caused more problems for area settlers.

At one time during the dispute, the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia set up a meeting for their commissioners. The Pennsylvania members proposed for the western boundary a line to be drawn north from the end of Mason and Dixon’s line, parallel to the winding eastern Delaware River border. Among other problems, this line would have left almost all of Washington County and substantial portions of those north and south in the Virginia Panhandle that became West Virginia. But Virginia refused the proposition, claiming that the western boundary line should be east of Pittsburgh.

The Revolutionary spirit against England developing in 1775 slowed the “war” down, but didn’t stop it. In 1776, Virginia proposed a settlement that would have given that state much of Fayette, all of Greene, and substantial amounts to the north. This was rejected by Pennsylvania.

Finally, in 1782, McClean was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council to finish the work, along with Virginia representatives. He had worked with the original Mason-Dixon party, and had resided briefly at Stoystown before moving to Fayette. That work was completed for both southern and western boundaries, and finally accepted by Virginia in 1786.

At times through the years, national historians have pointed out the importance of these and other actions in southwestern Pennsylvania history unrecognized for their importance in national history.
Last month, the Westmoreland County Historical Society and University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, with the help of others, initiated a program to advance that knowledge for both local residents and the proper place in national history.

John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry

As you read, cinsider the following questions:
1. What was the reason why John Brown and his co-conspirators chose Harper’s Ferry?
2. What was Brown hoping to accomplish?
3. Who captured Brown?
4. Check the source of this article at the bottom. Is there any evidence of bias throughout this article? Be specific.
5. How many people later famous for deeds during the Civil War were involved in the capture and/or prosecution of Brown?
6. For what crimes was John Brown tried?

John Brown’s Raid

In the winter of 1857-58, John Brown, who had been a leader in and a promoter of lawlessness during the troubles in Kansas–undertaken, as he himself confessed, for the purpose of inflaming the public mind on the subject of slavery, that he might perfect organizations to bring about servile insurrections in the slave States—-collected a number of young men in that territory, including several of his sons, and, with the use of funds and arms that had been furnished for his Kansas operations, placed these men under military instruction, by one of their number, at Springdale, in Iowa. In the spring of 1858 he took these men to Chatham, in Canada West, where, on the 8th of May, he assembled a “provisional constitutional convention,” made up of those he brought with him and a number of resident free negroes. On the day of its assembling, this convention adopted a “provisional constitution and ordinances for the people of the United States,” the preamble of which began: “Whereas slavery, throughout its entire existence in the United States, is none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked, and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens upon another portion …. Therefore, we, citizens of the United States and the oppressed people who . . . are declared to have no rights which the white man is bound to respect . . . ordain and establish for ourselves the following provisional constitution and ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives and liberties, and govern our actions.” On the 10th, after appointing a committee with full power to fill all the executive, legislative, judicial and military offices named in the constitution adopted, this convention adjourned, sine die, and Brown took his Kansas party to Ohio, where he disbanded them subject to call, but sending his Capt. John E. Cook, of Connecticut (who was subsequently executed), to stay at Harper’s Ferry, Va., and make himself familiar with the surrounding country and its citizens, and especially with the negro slaves, for the information of his leader.

Brown, under the assumed name of Isaac Smith, appeared in the neighborhood of Harper’s Ferry about the 1st of July, 1859, and there is evidence to show that he extended his examination of the country for future strategic purposes, as far up the Shenandoah valley as Staunton, concealing his purposes by giving out that he was a farmer from New York, with his two sons and a son-in-law, desiring to rent or purchase land. Soon after his arrival at Harper’s Ferry he rented the small Kennedy farm in Maryland, some four and a half miles from Harper’s Ferry, where he did some little farming, and, to explain his secret movements, said he was accustomed to mining operations, and expected to find valuable mineral deposits in that mountain region. In the meantime he kept two or three of his party, under assumed names, at Chambersburg, Pa., who there received arms, ammunition. and other military stores, which had been collected for use in Kansas, and forwarded them from time to time to Brown’s habitation.

On October 10, 1859, from “Headquarters War Department, Provisional Army, Harper’s Ferry,” John Brown, commander-in-chief, issued his “General Order No. I,” organizing “the divisions of the provisional army and the coalition,” providing for company, battalion, regiment, brigade and general staff organization. It is probable that at the time of issuing this order Brown had with him, at the Kennedy farm, his whole band of followers, including his spy Cook, and there formulated his final plans of invasion; and that soon thereafter he removed to a schoolhouse nearer Harper’s Ferry, the hundreds of carbines, pistols, spears or pikes, and a quantity of cartridges, powder, percussion caps, and other military supplies, that he had gathered for arming the negroes when they rose to insurrection in response to his call and movements.

About 11 p.m., Sunday, October 16, 1859, Brown, accompanied by 14 white men from Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine, Indiana and Canada, and 5 negroes from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, some 20 insurgents, all fully armed, crossed the Potomac into Virginia at Harper’s Ferry, overpowered the watchmen at the Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge, the United States armory and arsenal near the Baltimore & Ohio, and the rifle factory above the town on the Shenandoah, and placed guards at those points and at the street corners of the town. Brown established himself in the thick-walled brick building at the armory gate, one room of which was the quarters of the watchman and the other contained a fire-engine; he then sent six men, including the spy Cook, under Captain Stevens, to seize the principal citizens in the neighborhood and incite the negroes to rise in insurrection. This party broke into the house of Col. L. W. Washington, about five miles from Harper’s Ferry, about 1:30 a. m. of the 17th, and forced him and four of his servants to accompany them to Harper’s Ferry, he in his own carriage and followed by one of his farm wagons, which they seized. On their way back, at about 3 a.m., they captured Mr. Allstadt and six of his servants, placing arms in the hands of the latter. On reaching Harper’s Ferry, Cook and five of the captured slaves were sent with Colonel Washington’s four-horse wagon to bring forward the arms, etc., deposited at the schoolhouse in Maryland.
In the meantime Brown halted, for a time, an eastbound passenger train on the Baltimore & Ohio, one of his men killing the railroad guard at the bridge; he also captured, as they appeared on the streets in the early morning, some 40 citizens of Harper’s Ferry, whom he confined, with Messrs. Washington and Allstadt, in one room of the gate or engine house which he had selected as his fort or point of defense.
News of these occurrences spread rapidly, and citizens and citizen soldiery, with arms, hastened from all the surrounding parts of Virginia and Maryland to resist this high-handed invasion of their homes and States. About 11 a.m., of the 17th, the Jefferson Guards, from Charlestown, arrived, soon followed by the Hamtramck and the Shepherdstown troop, from Shepherdstown, and Alburtis’ company from Martinsburg. These, under the command of Col. R. A. Baylor, forced the insurgents within the armory enclosure, which they surrounded by a cordon of pickets. Brown then withdrew his men into the gate house, which he proceeded to loophole and fortify, taking with him ten of the most prominent of his Virginia and Maryland captives, which he termed “hostages,” to insure the safety of his band. From openings in the building the insurgents fired upon all white people that came in sight.

After sunset of the 17th, Capt. B. B. Washington’s company from Winchester, and three companies from Frederick City, Md., under Colonel Shriver, arrived; later came companies from Baltimore, under Gen. C. C. Edgerton, and a detachment of United States marines, commanded by Lieut. J. Green and Major Russell, accompanied by Lieut.-Col. R. E. Lee, of the Second United States cavalry (with his aide, Lieut. J. E. B. Stuart, of the First United States cavalry), who, happening to be at Arlington, his home, near Washington, had been ordered to take command at Harper’s Ferry, recapture the government armory and arsenal, and restore order. Colonel Lee halted the Baltimore troops at Sandy Hook, about a mile and a half east of Harper’s Ferry, directed the United States artillery companies (ordered from Fort Monroe) to halt in Baltimore, then crossed to Harper’s Ferry with the marines, disposed them in the armory grounds so as to prevent the escape of the insurgents, and awaited dawn of the 18th before attacking Brown’s stronghold, for fear of sacrificing the lives of the “hostages” in a midnight attack.

Soon after daylight of the 18th, after having posted the volunteer troops so as to completely invest the armory grounds, and prepared for an assault upon Brown’s fort by the marines, Lee, under a flag by Lieutenant Stuart, made a written demand upon Brown to surrender himself, his associates and the prisoners they had taken, with the assurance that “if they will peaceably surrender themselves and restore the pillaged property, they shall be kept in safety to await orders of the President …. That if he is compelled to take them by force he cannot answer for their safety.” Stuart was instructed to receive no counter propositions from Brown, and to say that if they accepted the proffered terms they must immediately give up their arms and release their prisoners. As Lee expected, Brown spurned the offered terms of surrender. At a given signal to this effect from Stuart, Lee ordered forward twelve marines, led by Lieutenant Green, that he had put under cover near the engine-house, three of them supplied with sledge hammers to break in the doors, to attack Brown’s party with bayonets, taking care not to injure the citizens held captive, nor the captured slaves unless they resisted. The storming party quickly attacked the doors, but Brown had barricaded them inside with the fire-engine and fastened them by ropes, so the sledges were of no avail. Lee then ordered forward reserves, with a heavy ladder for a battering ram, with which a portion of the door was dashed in and admission gained. Up to that time Brown’s fire had been harmless, but at the threshold one marine was mortally wounded. The others quickly ended the contest, bayoneting the insurrectionists that resisted, Lieutenant Green cutting down Brown with his sword. The whole affair was over in a few minutes, and the captured citizens and slaves were released. A party of marines under Stuart was then sent to the Kennedy farm, which captured pikes (said to have been over 1,000), blankets, tools, tents, and other necessaries for a campaign, which Brown had there stored. A party of Maryland troops secured from the schoolhouse, where Brown had deposited them, boxes of carbines and revolvers, and the horses and wagon of Colonel Washington, which Brown had sent there to bring his military supplies to Harper’s Ferry.

Colonel Lee in his official report to Col. S. Cooper, adjutant-general of the United States army, dated October 19th, stated, from information in papers taken from the insurgents and from their statements: “It appears that the party consisted of 19 men–14 white and 5 black. They were headed by John Brown, of some notoriety in Kansas, who in June last located himself in Maryland, at the Kennedy farm, where he has been engaged in preparing to capture the United States works at Harper’s Ferry. He avows that his object was the liberation of the slaves of Virginia and of the whole South, and acknowledges that he has been disappointed in his expectations of aid from the black as well as the white population, both in the Southern and Northern States. The blacks whom he forced from their homes in this neighborhood, as far as I could learn, gave him no voluntary assistance. The servants… retained at the armory, took no part in the conflict . . . and returned to their homes as soon as released. The result proves the plan was the attempt of a fanatic or madman, which could only end in failure; and its temporary success was owing to the panic and confusion he succeeded in creating by magnifying his numbers.”

Lee, by order of Secretary of War John B. Floyd, turned over to the United States marshal and to the sheriff of Jefferson county, Va., Brown and two white men and two negroes. Ten of the white men and two of the negroes associated with Brown were killed during the combat with them; one white man, Cook, escaped, but was subsequently captured and executed; and one negro was unaccounted for. The insurgents killed three white men, Mr. F. Beckham, the mayor of Harper’s Ferry, Mr. G. W. Turner, one of the first citizens of Jefferson county, and Private Quinn of the marine corps, and a negro railroad porter; they wounded eight white citizens and one of the marine corps. After this affair was over, great alarm was caused by a report, about sundown of the 18th, from Pleasant valley in Maryland, that a body of men had descended from the mountains. and was massacring the residents of that valley. Colonel Lee, though incredulous, promptly headed a body of marines and hastened to the locality named, only to find the alarm false. In concluding his report, Colonel Lee expressed his thanks to Lieutenants Stuart and Green and Major Russell “for the aid they afforded me, and my entire commendation of the conduct of the detachment of marines, who were at all times ready and prompt in the execution of any duty. The promptness with which the volunteer troops repaired to the scene of disturbance, and the alacrity they displayed to suppress the gross outrage against law and order, I know will elicit your hearty approbation.” He enclosed to Cooper a printed copy of the provisional constitution and ordinances for the people of the United States, of which there was found a large number prepared for issue by the insurgents.

During the afternoon of October 18th, Gov. Henry A. Wise arrived at Harper’s Ferry and took precautions for the protection of Virginia and the execution of her laws, Brown, having been turned over to the civil authorities of Jefferson county, was brought to trial at Charlestown on the following Thursday, October 20th, because on that day began the regular fall session of the circuit court. A grand jury indicted him upon the charges of treason and murder. His prosecution was conducted before an impartial judge and jury by Hon. Andrew Hunter; he was defended by able counsel from Virginia and other States, including Hon. D. W. Voorhees, of Indiana, and was condemned and convicted. His trial lasted nearly a month, and, as Brown himself admitted, was fair and impartial. He was condemned to be executed on the 2nd of December. His counsel asked the Virginia court of appeals for a stay of execution, on pleas presented, but this was refused.

After the condemnation of Brown and his associates, fearing from published threats that an attempt might be made by Northern sympathizers to rescue them, Governor Wise ordered Virginia troops to Charlestown to guard the prisoners until after their execution. Toward the last of November about 1,000 were there assembled, among them the cadets of the Virginia military institute, under command of Col. F. H. Smith, the superintendent. Maj. T. J. Jackson, the famous “Stonewall” Jackson of the war, was present in command of the cadet battery. He witnessed the execution of Brown about midday, December 2, 1859. In a letter to his wife he wrote of Brown, “he behaved with unflinching firmness,” and of the execution: “My command was in front of the cadets, all facing south. One howitzer I assigned to Mr. Truehart, on the left of the cadets, and with the other I remained on the right. Other troops occupied different positions around the scaffold, and altogether it was an imposing but very solemn scene. I was much impressed with the thought that before me stood a man, in the full vigor of health, who must in a few moments enter eternity. I sent up the petition that he might be saved. Awful was the thought that he might in a few minutes receive the sentence, ‘Depart, ye wicked, into everlasting fire!’ I hope that he was prepared to die, but I am doubtful.”
On the day of Brown’s execution, bells were tolled and minute guns fired in many places in the North, and church services and public meetings were held for the purpose of glorifying his deeds and sanctifying the cause he represented, recognizing in him a martyr to the teachings of the abolitionists. Eventually his name became the slogan under which, as a battle hymn, the Northern troops invaded and overran the South.

In reference to Brown’s invasion of Virginia, Hon. A. H. Stephens, in his history of the United States, says: “This act greatly inflamed the Southern mind, especially as it was lauded by the official authorities of those Northern States which had refused to comply with their obligations under the Constitution in the matter of the rendition of fugitive slaves.”

It is interesting to note the men who appeared upon the scenes of these opening hostilities between the North and the South, and who subsequently became famous or celebrated characters in the great drama of the civil war. Among those who became Confederate generals were: S. Cooper, R. E. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, John B. Floyd and Henry A. Wise; and among colonels, C. J. Faulkner and A. R. Boteler. In the committee of the United States Senate, appointed by resolution of December 14, 1859, to inquire into the facts attending this invasion, were Hons. Jefferson Davis and J. M. Mason, and this committee had before it as witnesses, Hons. W. H. Seward, J. R. Giddings, Henry Wilson and Andrew Hunter. John A. Andrews, of Massachusetts, secured funds to pay Brown’s counsel.

Source: The Confederate Military History