Letter to the Citizens of the Greenville District

For the Southern Enterprise.

To the Citizens of Greenville District.

Fellow Citizens - By a portion of your own number, we have been requested to address you on a subject of vital interest. -- Some of you have less means of information than others; we therefore use great plainness of speech.

Years ago the State of South Carolina entered into a compact with other States for the accomplishment of certain purposes, equally important to them all. That compact is known as the Constitution of the United States. The purposes of that compact were "to form a more perfect union; to establish justice; to insure domestic tranquillity; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." These were wise and noble purposes, and the Union of States to accomplish them was a wise and "glorious Union."

But in the hands of wicked and even of foolish men, the wisest and best things are liable to be abused. It has been so here. -- The Union of the Southern States with the Northern has been the occasion of serious evils to the Southern States -- and is about to become the occasion of boundless disaster and ruin, unless the Southern States apply the remedy. We are not denying that the South has, in common with the North, derived advantages from this Union, particularly in the earlier years of our history. -- But in the case of the South these advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages to which she has been subject, and they are a the mere dust of the balance in comparison with the mischiefs she must yet experience, unless she takes the remedy in her own hand. The system of taxation under which we have been living, has given to the North annually the benefit of millions upon millions drawn off from the profits of Southern labor. By a high tariff they have shut off the fair competition, in our own markets, of those who buy our products, and thus they have made for themselves a market for their manufactures, where they have been receiving such prices as have made them rich. -- This is the secret of Northern wealth. -- Their large cities, their immense manufacturing establishments, their enriching commerce, never would have existed but for their connection with the South. This has drawn to them an immense population from abroad - and so they have been swimming on upon a tide of wonderful prosperity. -- Meanwhile, they have forgotten the hands that fed them, and after having refused to listen to the complaints of the South, they have come to feel for her a contempt which they express through their press and their pulpits, and the men who speak for them on the floor of Congress. In the halls of Congress -- common council chamber -- as much ours as theirs, a representative of a Northern State has dared to say of the South, she "can't be kicked out of the Union." Only within a few days, a leading Boston paper recommends a certain treatment of South Carolina, in order that she may know "whom she belongs to," and a leading Pennsylvania paper proposes "to slay South Carolina." This is the natural insolence of ill-gotten gain. It is like the effrontery of the highwayman who rifles his victim, and when he complains, smites him on the face. 'Tis true these things have been done under the forms of law, but they did not "establish justice," they did not "promote the general welfare," unless justice consists in taking away the profits of one party in a firm to give to the other party -- unless the general welfare means the sin of the greater number at the cost of the smaller.

Facts like these, Fellow Citizens, led far-seeing men long ago to ask "what is the value of the Union." But up to this time, the people of the South have chosen to abide by the compact rather than break it up. A veneration for our honored ancestors, and the hope that certain false opinions at the North would, like a sweeping prairie fire, burn out, have kept our people true to the Union. Conscious that they desire an unequal advantage (and be it remembered that the North has never pretended that the South ever asked an unfair advantage) men have indulged the reasonable expectation that the North would at length desist from a trespass on Southern rights. This expectation has been bitterly disappointed; nay, more -- he must be blind who does not see how these rights are now laid in the dust, unless the South has the spirit to defend them, if need be, even to the death.

A false opinion, which contradicts common sense, contradicts all history, contradicts the Bible, has rooted itself into the Northern mind. It is taught in their schools and colleges; it is enforced in their pulpits; it is the Gospel of Northern fanaticism. -- That false opinion is, that every man is born free and equal. The abettors of this doctrine differ somewhat in the extent of the inference they draw from it. Some of them, (the most honest and consistent of the class,) seeing it is virtually contradicted by the Constitution of the United States, (for that does not treat slaves as free, and equal to white men,) denounce the Constitution as a "covenant with death and an agreement with hell;" and, therefore, they are for dissolving the Union because it is founded, in their judgment, on a rotten compact. The larger class, however, are for holding on to the Constitution, because, by the use of their power under it they can finally abolish slavery. Give them the Presidency and its patronage; the millions of money it has to dispense; the control of the Post Office, &c. and in a few brief years the slave States bordering on the North will have to abandon slavery as the source to them of endless vexation and loss, through the interference of Abolition emmisaries, while no new States will be admitted but such as are free -- and then, by a vote of Congress, their great idea will be carried out -- universal emancipation will be declared.-- Then every negro in South Carolina, and in every other Southern States, will be his own master; nay, more than that, will be the equal of every one of you. If you are tame enough to submit, Abolition preachers will be at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands! Nay, nay! we beg pardon of South Carolina women for such a suggestion. If their fathers and their brothers have not the spirit to break loose from a government whose elected Chief Magistrate aims to establish such a state of things, the daughters of South Carolina would die for shame at the dishonor of the men.

Fellow citizens, this is no picture of fancy. It is a stern reality, which must arise in the future, unless the infatuation of the Northern mind is checked by a miracle, or unless you yourselves apply the remedy. Truth has its natural limitations, error has none. A conscientious errorist is the most hopeless errorist with which you can treat. A conceited errorist, especially if prosperity feed his conceit, is the next bad case. John Brown and Henry Ward Beecher, the one an infidel and the other a Christian preacher, belong to the first class. No defeat, not even death itself, would change the opinion of such men as these, and many, many such, are in the ranks of Northern Abolitionism. The other class is the more numerous. They glory in being wise. -- They claim to be political philosophers, or pride themselves on following in the wake of such. They utter and echo the veriest inanities in a style befitting discoverers of truth. Calmly ensconced in the sense of their own security, they give currency to theoretical opinions which they cannot but see must damage others at a distance, without sufficient foresight to perceive the reaction of their own mischief on themselves, like a silly boy who sets fire to a neighbor's haystack, and flying to his father's house, feels that he is safe when the door closes, until the lurid flame licks its hot tongue against his own bed curtain. The North is full of these shallow philosophers, a famous New Yorker at their head. Of these men there seems to be no hope except from the actual experiment of their schemes. If the first class labor under an incurable malady, like disease of the heart, wherein the patient can't be cured, the other labor under brain fever, which nothing can cure but the lancet and the blister. If the Union is dissolved, we answer for it, Mr. Seward will in a short time be a much wiser man, with very changed opinions. Let the Union continue, and he, with all his disciples, will remain as madly bent as they now are, on universal emancipation.

But let us look more directly into the face of the danger before us.

A citizen of the North has been brought forward by a party at the North as Candidate for the Presidency, on the undisguised, nay, the avowed ground, of his opposition to slavery. A great political organization, known as the Black Republican party, based upon the theory that the negro is the equal of the white man, had chosen Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the Presidency. The election has just been decided. A majority of votes had been given for this man.

Now, what does Mr. Lincoln intend? Hear his own language: "I believe," he says, "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 that 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 shall push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South."

This extract proves two things in regard to this man. It shows, first, that in appealing to popular prejudices he is not incapable of disingenuous and gross misrepresentations of others. When, in three quarters of a century, have the Southern States, or any single Southern State, or any citizen of a Southern State, made any effort of any kind to engraft slavery upon a Northern State? The suggestion is an artful, and mischievous misrepresentation, intended to act upon a factious mass, eager to justify their own impertinent intermeddling with the business of other people. The other point which this extract reveals is Mr. Lincoln's abandonment to that false opinion of which the whole Abolition agitation is founded. He tells us again, "that he hates slavery as much as any Abolitionist."

We care not to prove that Mr. Lincoln would join hands with such a man as John Brown to carry fire and bloodshed into a slaveholding State - it is enough for us to know that he is in full concert with what the Black Republicans themselves would consider as the respectable and conservative part of their own party. Here, then, what two of the highest authorities among them have proclaimed. One of them is a Senator from New York. Senator Seward says: "Free labor has at last apprehended its rights and its destiny, and is organizing itself to assume the government of the Republic. It will hereafter meet you boldly and resolutely here. [Washington] * * * It has driven you back in California and Kansas; it will invade you soon in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, and Texas." "The interests of the whole race demand universal emancipation. Whether the consummation shall be allowed to take effect with needful and wise precautions against sudden change, or be hurried on by violence, is all that remains for you to decide." The other representative of this party is a senator from Massachusetts. In speaking of what he calls the slave oligarchy, he says: "Surely, then, in its retreat, smarting under the indignation of an aroused people, and the concurring judgment of the civilized world, it must die; it may be as a poisoned rat dies, of rage, in its hole. Meanwhile, all good omens are ours. The work cannot stop. Quickened by the triumph now at hand, (the Presidential election), with a Republican President in power, State after State, quitting the condition of a territory and spurning slavery, will be welcomed into our plural unit, and joining hands together will become a belt of fire around the slave States, in which slavery must die."

Here, then, fellow citizens, are the purposes of the party so plainly avowed that none may doubt them. Here is a President elected to carry out these purposes as a wary man, intent on their accomplishment, and with a stubbornness which the madness of his own party cannot bend so as to hurry his Administration into any "overt acts" whose flagrancy would arouse even the most torpid at the South, he will move on with a cold steadiness of purpose towards the projected end. He and Seward and other leaders of the party are too wise to be betrayed into any action which would offend those who are tame or blind enough to submit at all. The tiger has no "overt acts" before the final spring. Only let him get his springing place, and he crouches still and quiet as innocence itself. The anaconda, once wrapped about its victim, does not arouse the fated beast by unnecessary constriction, until its wasted breath makes its destruction as convenient as it is sure. Such is the fate, fellow-citizens, which our Abolition enemies, (longer to call them brethren would be a bitter irony,) design for us. And yet we, poor simple souls, are to wait for "overt acts!" As sharers with you, in the obligations and the destinies of South Carolina, we say to you, stand up for your rights, and through you, through your votes, let our beloved commonwealth declare herself dissevered from all political connection with men who have "broken the covenant."

The Constitution you have striven to keep sacred, but the States of the North have trampled it in the dust. It was established "to promote justice." Abolitonism has under its protection robbed the South annually of hundreds of thousands, and would use it to rob the South of property worth four hundred millions of dollars. It was established "to secure domestic tranquility." What of the domestic tranquility which Abolition secures? Look at the secret emissaries prowling about Southern homes and plantations. Look at the arms placed in the hands of slaves to destroy their masters, and their masters families. Look at the poison (with a fiendish and cowardly malignity) put into the hands of the same deluded creatures, for the same nefarious purpose. Fellow-citizens, what means the patrol and vigilance committees, the gallows, and the halters, which at this strange crisis have of late so often figured in Southern scenes? These are parts of the "domestic tranquility" you owe to the North. Why is it now that almost every man; young and old, is daily handling arms? Why are the ministers of the Gospel, a class of men at the South, who keep aloof from party politics, registered on the rolls of Minute Men, and addressing their fellow-citizens? Is it not the simple truth that under the Constitution our "domestic tranquility" has been invaded, and that a tyrannical proscriptive party, full of pride, folly and insolence, have, as they predicted, "assumed the Government," with the fell purpose to lay that tranquility at last in absolute ruins?

We despise Abolitionism - for it is most flagrant injustice. It proposes to circumvent us, and then by the power of numbers to deprive us of our lawful property - possessions many of them derived from the very men who established the independence of the United States.

We detest Abolitionism because it trespasses upon our rights of conscience. It does not allow us judge for ourself the morality of slaveholding. It intends to treat the slaveholder and the polygamist alike, and it demands that we shall not obey the dictates of our own conscience, or else shall feel the weight of Northern displeasure. Every one must see the haughtiness of its contempt in Mr. Seward, and its hyena ferocity in Mr. Sumner. -- These are representative men. Their spirit is the spirit of the class. An Abolitionist has vastly less regard of the slaveholder's right of conscience, than a slaveholder has for the same right in his slave.

And we abhor Abolitionism for its atrocious impiety. It stigmatizes as a gross sin what God guards in the very Decalogue as a sacred right. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's * * * man servant, nor his maid servant." It assumes to understand religious duty better than an inspired Apostle. He sent a runaway slave back to his master. The Abolitionists encourage him to run away. "To God's [illegible] it must come at last." The tirades against slaveholders -- not for the abuse of their relationships as masters, but for the relationship itself -- is an outrage on the authority of God's word. Southern Christians have honored the authority of the Bible, in withdrawing from such bodies as have infected with Abolitionism. Here is the Divine injunction -- "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren, but rather let do them service, because they are holy and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railing, evil surmising, perverse disputings of men, of corrupt minds, and destitute of truth, supposing that gain is godliness; from such withdraw thyself." See 1 Tim. 6:1-5.

When Southern States separate from Northern ones, on the ground of their Abolitionism, they will be doing it under the highest sanction that can warrant human action.

To you, citizens of Greenville, in common with the citizens of the State, will the question soon be presented: What shall the State do? Shall she remain in a Union thus attended with danger and dishonor, "to be girt about by a belt of fire," or driven to die like a poisoned rat in its hole? Or shall she assume her unquestionable Independence, ready to enter, when other Southern States shall be prepared for it, into a new confederacy with them? Such a Government must be formed, for it cannot be that the Southern portion of the present United States - the finest country in the world -- is destined to be sacrificed to the Utopian schemes of the shallow pretenders and schemers who are forming new plans for Providence, and uttering their follies as predictions.

Men of Greenville, show yourselves men. Many of you are Baptists. They know the relation which the churches and associations sustain to each other. The churches are the smaller bodies, and the associations are the larger; yet the churches make the association, and if at any time an association should interfere with the rights of a church, that moment that Church would secede. Just so here; the States have formed the General Government, and the moment that Government invades, directly or indirectly, the rights of a State, that moment such a State owes it to herself to throw off the odious tyranny.

Such, fellow citizens, is the position of South Carolina. Self-respect, honor, the safety of our wives, our children, and our slaves themselves, whose well being is inseparably connected with the welfare of their masters all conspire to urge you to sustain the State in the high position which, if she is true to herself, she must assume. As your fellow citizens, we shall be grievously disappointed if you do not make common cause with us. The negro is not your equal, unless the Bible be untrue, or you prove yourselves unworthy of the name of free men. The Abolitionists are not our masters, and though they have "assumed the Government," yet they cannot exercise it over you without your submission. Men of Greenville, will you submit?


Transcribed by Lloyd Benson, Department of History, Furman University, from the Greenville, South Carolina, Southern Enterprise, 22 November 1860.