The Confederate Records of the State of Georgia, Volume 1 (1909)
Compiled by Allen D. Candler, A. M., L. L. D.


This, the first volume of the Confederate Records of Georgia, contains the special message of Governor Joseph E. Brown on Federal Relations, transmitted to the General Assembly on the 7th of November, 1860; resolutions of the people of various counties on the same subject, sent to the Legislature; the address of Thomas R. R. Cobb, before the Legislature, in favor of the immediate secession of the State from the Union, and that of Alexander H. Stephens, before the same body, opposing it. Mr. Cobb, in righteous indignation, recounted, in burning words, the provocations which not only justified but demanded the immediate secession of the State, while Mr. Stephens, admitting the right of the State to annul the original compact and withdraw from the Union, and the sufficiency of the provocation to justify the adoption of such a course, looked more to the end than to the provoking causes, and foresaw with prophetic ken the woes which would follow Civil War, which he regarded as inevitable should the Union be destroyed. These two addresses, emanating from the brains of two of Georgia's most able and illustrious sons, are inserted that posterity may be fully informed as to the grounds on which both those who favored and those who opposed the immediate withdrawal of the State from the Federal Union based their actions. These are followed by the Act directing the Governor to call a Convention of the people; the proclamation of the Governor calling it; the journal of the Secession Convention, complete, including all resolutions and ordinances adopted by it, and the acts of the Legislature of 1860, relating to public defense.

*Percy Greg, like his father, wrote about politics, but his views were violently reactionary: his History of the United States to the Reconstruction of the Union (1887) can be said to be more of a polemic, rather than a history. Wikipedia

**Lincoln received 1,865,908 of 2,819,122 total votes split among four candidates. That's 66%. The remaining 34% were divided among the three losers.

When the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Candidate of a purely sectional party, on a platform which an impartial British Historian* has characterized as a virtual declaration of war against the Southern States of the Union, was announced, astonishment and alarm spread all over the South like a contagion. Had he been elected by a National, and not a sectional, party, and in accordance with the spirit as well as the letter of the law, nine men out of every ten in Georgia would have cheerfully acquiesced in his election, notwithstanding his well known hostility to the South. But this was not true. Counting the electors provided for under the clumsy electoral system, he had secured a majority, but every Lincoln elector was from a State North of the Potomac and the Ohio. Counting the popular vote cast in the entire country, he had been defeated by nearly a million votes.** Thus Mr. Lincoln had been elected according to the letter, but in utter violation of the spirit of the law.

At the formation of the Government slavery existed in every State in the Union. It was distinctly recognized in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court had decided that slaves were property, and that the owner of a slave had the right to go and carry with him his slave into any part of the United States, and that if his slave left him he had the right to pursue and apprehend him in any other State or Territory. Congress had enacted a fugitive slave law, under the provisions of which it was made the duty of all United States Marshals and other Federal officers to aid him in apprehending his fugitive slave and bringing him back. Every Act of Congress and every decision of the Supreme Court had sustained this right, and the Senate of the United States had, but a short time before, adopted a resolution that “all the States were sovereign and equal,” and that as negro slaves were property, Congress had no right to interfere with this kind of property in the Territories, purchased with the common blood and the common treasure of all the States, but that each State, for itself, had the sole right to Legislate on the subject. When, therefore, Mr. Lincoln was elected President on such a platform, with the avowed purpose, in violation of the Acts of Congress and of the Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court, of preventing citizens of the South from going with their property into the Territories with equal protection to themselves and their property as that accorded to citizens of all the other States, the people of the South could but be alarmed at the situation.

In Georgia, the fourth State to ratify the Federal Constitution and enter the Union, there had always been a strong Union sentiment. South Carolina had, under the leadership of the great Calhoun, resorted to nullification, and New England had often threatened secession, but Georgia had always set her fact sternly against both. Only eight years before the triumph at the polls of this sectional party she had, in a contest for Governor in which the question of secession played an important part, elected Howell Cobb, an ex-Speaker of the National House of Representatives, Governor over a distinguished ex-Governor, Charles J. McDonald, a secessionist, by the largest majority she had ever given any man for that exalted position within her entire history.

In 1820, when Missouri was admitted into the Union as a slave State, a compromise measure was adopted under the terms of which all territory North of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes North latitude should be admitted into the Union as free States, and all South of that line should come in as either free or slave States as the people of the territory might determine when they applied for admission. This was an injustice to the South, because Congress by this Act assumed a right which had never belonged to it, to-wit, the right to legislate on a subject which belonged solely to the several States and virtually excluded the Southern people from all the territories North of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, which were the property of all the people, both North and South. It was, at the time, supposed that by this concession by the South the vexed question of slavery would be finally disposed of. But in 1850, when California was admitted into the Union with a Constitution prohibiting slavery, one-half of her territory being North and the other South of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, the Missouri compromise was abrogated and the status of the territories became the same as before its adoption. For the sake of peace and harmony the South again acquiesced in the measure. Four years later when Kansas and Nebraska were knocking for admission into the Union, many Southern men had gone and others were going into them, especially the former, the abolitionists organized and sent into them, from the free States, bands of armed men to drive the Southerners out and thus prevent the adoption of a Constitution recognizing slavery. A condition of Civil War resulted, and through this means anti-slavery Constitutions were adopted and both Territories were admitted as free States. So violent had become the hostility to slavery and to the Southern slave owners that a dozen Northern States enacted “personal liberty laws” nullifying the fugitive slave law enacted by Congress and defying the decisions of the Supreme Court.

The agitation continued, and finally culminated in 1860, in the election of Lincoln. The Southern people had forborne with their fanatical enemies until forebearance had ceased to be a virtue.

They asked nothing not guaranteed to them by the Constitution, and had shown their attachment to the Union by sacrifices and concessions never appreciated by their adversaries. These adversaries in the meantime had succeeded in making a solid North, whose object was to deprive them of equality in the Union and rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution. So intense had become the hostility of the dominant party to the South and Southern rights and interests that every utterance of its press and of its leaders in the campaign of 1860, was a menace, a threat or an insult to the Southern people.

The party which had thus trampled upon the Constitution, nullified the Acts of Congress and defied the Supreme Court was not in fact a party of fixed and well defined principles, but a coalition of several parties or fragments of dead parties, each organized in its day to combat the principles of the party of Jefferson, and agreeing to nothing except hostility to them and to the Southern States, their stronghold. Neither of these factions was, within itself, strong enough to be dangerous, but united as they now were under the leadership of fanatical and unscrupulous partisans, every utterance of whom was a threat, an insult or a denunciation of the South, they became a menace to the peace of the whole country and to the material interest of the Southern States.

One factor in this coalition was a small but militant fragment of the old Federalist party, aristocrats, who favored a “strong Government,” and who had opposed the adoption of the Constitution on the ground that under it the powers of the general Government were too limited and those of the States too liberal. They had, from the beginning, through their great leader, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, constantly amplified, by judicial construction, the powers of the Federal Government, and to the same extent restricted those of the States, nor had they ever, at any time, ceased to hate the doctrines of Jefferson and his Democratic cohorts who had driven them from power and out of existence as a political organization, and were ever ready to act with any party in which they might find an opportunity to punish those who had so signally defeated and humiliated them.

Another factor in the coalition was the old abolition and free-soil party. The birth of the abolition party was almost coeval with the establishment of the Union. It was at first numerically weak, but it had constantly grown in numbers and was aggressive, and the more dangerous because it was sincere in its fanatical desire to abolish negro slavery, and had shown that it scrupled at nothing to accomplish that result.

Another was the Northern wing of the old whig party which believed in a protective tariff and a National bank, but which had “died of a dry rot” a few years before the formation of this coalition.

The last, and the most formidable factor in this coalition, was made up of the army of manufacturers in the Middle and Eastern States, and the shipbuilders and fishermen who had, for many decades, fattened on subsidies and bounties and protective tariffs at the expense of the people of all other sections. They were not scrupulous about party alignment, but were ready to coalesce with any party which would continue and increase the special privileges they had enjoyed. The new coalition promised all of this, and the other three factions eagerly joined it, or rather it eagerly absorbed them and acceded to all of their demands; centralization of power in the Federal Government, national banks, special privileges to the favored few and the abolition of negro slavery. Thus the coalition became all things to all men, North and East, and arrayed a solid North, bound together by sectional prejudice and “the cohesive power of public plunder,” against a solid South, which asked nothing but equal rights in the Union.

There was but little in common between these factions. The Federalists and the protective tariff men cared but little about slavery. Indeed, many of them had been slave owners or were the sons of slave owners, for slavery existed in all of the States at the formation of the government, but in order to reinforce their own ranks and increase their power to perpetuate a system of taxes, subsidies and bounties, under which they had grown rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of the country, they adopted as their own the doctrines and demands of the abolitionists and bodily absorbed that party. Thus the new party, which had stolen the name of the party of Jefferson and called itself the Republican party, became as thoroughly abolitionized as the old abolition party itself, and the coalition thus abolitionized soon constituted a majority of the people North of the Potomac and the Ohio. It is a singular fact, however, and as true as it is singular, that the Northern conscience never became quickened to a realization of the enormity of slavery until after the Northern slaveholders had converted their own slaves into gold and the gold had found a lodgment deep down in their pockets. This, then, was the party which had triumphed in the National election of 1860. In its ranks the controlling spirits were the men who had declared “a higher law” than the Constitution and denounced the Union as “a covenant with hell” and the Constitution as “a league with death,” and who had derisively pointed to the flag of the Union as “a flaunting lie.”

Alarmed at the triumph of this coalition, which denied to the Southern people equal rights in the Union and had heaped upon them insult upon insult, and whose avowed object was to humiliate them and destroy three thousand millions of dollars worth of their accumulated wealth invested in slaves, many of whom had been bought from the people of the States now waging war upon them, the Legislature of Georgia, then in session, in response to a universal demand of the people, as voiced in town and county meetings and through the press, passed a bill calling a convention of delegates from all the counties in the State to consider Federal relations and, if possible, avert the impending danger.

On the 16th of January, 1861, this convention met in the capitol at Milledgeville. It was probably the most representative body that ever assembled in the State. The people sent up as delegates their wisest, purest and most conservative men, regardless of former political alignment. There came, from their respective counties, statesmen of ripest experience and unquestioned patriotism; men who in the cabinet and in both Houses of the National Congress had stood the peers of the greatest in the old Republic; profound jurists, who had always eschewed politics and devoted their lives to the study of the Constitution and the laws; ministers of religion, venerable Doctors of Divinity, who had grown gray in preaching the doctrine of peace on earth and good will to men; educated planters from the cotton plantations of Middle and South Georgia and the rice fields of the coast country, who, by reason of their affluence, had always had abundant leisure to study public questions, and who were, therefore, as well informed on these questions as their Representatives in the National Senate and House of Representatives; small farmers from the hills and valleys of North Georgia and the wire-grass plains of South Georgia, lineal descendants of the heroes of the first war for independence, who had never owned a slave in their lives, but lovers of liberty, independence and equal rights, and full of the fire that animated their Revolutionary ancestors when they threw off the British yoke; bankers, merchants, doctors, representatives of every class of people; all preferred Union under the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court, but none so craven as to tamely submit to the domination of a party which had denounced the Constitution, reviled the Union and defied the highest judicial tribunal in the world, without some sort of guarantee that their honor would be respected and their rights protected. They entered upon their duties by first invoking the guidance of the God of nations and of men in their efforts to so steer the ship of State as to avoid both Scylla and Charybdis, both disunion and dishonor. Such were the men and such the manner in which they met the fearful crisis that confronted them. No men could have been more desirous of a peaceful settlement of the differences between the sections than were the vast majority of this Convention They proposed to molest no one; they only desired recognition of the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution. There were three questions for the Convention to consider:

First, Has a State the right to withdraw from the Union?

Second, Do the prevailing conditions require resort to so extreme a measure?

Third, If these questions are determined in the affirmative, should Georgia exercise the right and secede at once, regardless of the action of any other State, or should she postpone action and wait for the co-operation of her sister Southern States?

*Josiah Quincy

On the first question there was but little, if any, difference of opinion. All were agreed that she had the right. Indeed, there is no evidence that any party, in any part of the Union, ever at any time during the first half century of our national existence doubted this right, and three States, Rhode Island, New York and North Carolina had expressly reserved it when they entered the Union, while a half dozen others, not expressly reserving it, had, by implication recognized it on entering the Confederation. In New England, where the right to peaceably withdraw was now most stubbornly denied to the Southern States, leaders of public sentiment not only claimed, but often threatened on the hustings, on the floors of Congress and through the press, when questions affecting the interest of their section were under discussion, to resort to what they called the “unquestioned right of secession,” and when the bill to admit Louisiana into the Union was under discussion in Congress, a distinguished son of Massachusetts* declared that if the bill should pass it was his “deliberate judgment that it would be virtually a dissolution of the Union and would free the States from their moral obligations, and as it would be the right of all, so it would be the duty of some, definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must.” Indeed, at that time, when the Republic was young and many of those who had taken a part in its establishment were still living, we hear of but few anywhere, either North or South, who denied this right to the States. It was only when the Southern States, hitherto the staunchest champions of the Union, alarmed at the repeated violations by some of their Northern confederates of the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and of the Acts of Congress, and their insolent disregard of the decisions of the Supreme Court, begun to discuss secession as a means of redress that the right was anywhere seriously denied.

In view of all these facts, there was, in the Georgia Convention, no division of opinion as to the right of the State to withdraw from the Federal Union.

On the question as to whether the provocation and the danger that threatened the State was sufficient to justify secession unless guaranties for the safety and protection of the honor and interests of the Southern States were given by the incoming administration, there was equal unanimity. So long as their adversaries, the cornerstone of whose creed was hostility to the South and to Southern interests, constituted a small minority of the legislative branch of the Government, and were therefore powerless to do harm, the Southern people tolerated them without apprehension. But now that they had secured control of the executive office and about half the seats in both Houses of Congress, the danger was imminent, for how could an oath of office bind such men? The men who had now secured control at Washington were the same men who had denied to the people of the South equal rights in the Territories and had sent armed men into them to drive out such Southern men as had the temerity to go into them and carry their slaves; they were the same men who had trampled upon the Constitution and defied the highest judicial tribunal in the land, and who in a dozen States had enacted laws making it a crime for a Southern man to follow his fugitive slave across their borders, and who had closed the doors of their courts against him, and declare anyone who lent him aid or comfort a criminal; the same men who, through fanatical abolition societies, had sent emissaries in the guise of preachers and teachers and peddlers into the Southern plantations to incite servile insurrections, and who had not only encouraged and aided old John Brown, the Kansas jay-hawker, to invade Virginia with an armed force, seize the United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry, arm all the negroes who could be induced to join his piratical standard, and murder unarmed and unoffending citizens, but who, when he was captured, tried by a court of law, convicted of treason and murder and hanged by a sheriff of the offended State, tolled church bells all day in many of their cities on the day on which he was executed, and canonized him as a martyr to a holy cause.

In view of these facts and the many other injustices and indignities heaped upon the people of Georgia and the people of all the other Southern States, there were no dissenters in the Convention from the conclusion that the danger was sufficiently imminent and the provocation sufficiently great to warrant a resort to any honorable means, even unconditional secession, to protect the interest and honor of the people of Georgia. The decision of the first two questions was practically unanimous, but there was no such unanimity in disposing of the third and last—should Georgia at once, and independently of the action of any other State, withdraw from the Federal Union, or should she wait for united action whereby all the threatened States could go out together? While all the delegates believed the provocation sufficient and that the State had unquestionably the right to withdraw, many were for “co-operation” with the other offended States, while many others thought delay dangerous and were therefore for immediate, unconditional secession. To test this question the Honorable Eugenius A. Nisbet, a venerable ex-justice of the Supreme Court and a delegate from the county of Bibb, offered a resolution that “Georgia has the right, and it is her duty to secede from the Union.” After a thorough and exhaustive discussion, earnest but void of acrimony and bitterness, in which Robert Toombs, the Mirabeau of the hour, and Thomas R. R. Cobb, the Christian jurist, who had never sought an office, and who afterwards gave up his life on the bloody field of Fredericksburg for his convictions, led in favor of immediate secession, and Alexander H. Stephens, “the sage of Liberty Hall,” Herschel W. Johnson, a distinguished ex-Senator of the United States, ex-Governor of the State and candidate for the Vice-Presidency on the Douglass ticket at the last election, and Benjamin H. Hill, the peerless orator, led the fight for co-operation, the vote was taken and resulted in one hundred and sixty-six votes for the resolution and one hundred and thirty against it.

Thus the die was cast, and the Georgia Convention declared in favor of immediate, unconditional, independent withdrawal from the Federal Union. Three days later an ordinance was adopted, by a vote almost unanimous, “to dissolve the Union between the State of Georgia and other States united with her under a compact of Government entitled ‘the Constitution of the United States of America.’ “ This ordinance was engrossed on parchment and signed by all the delegates but six, and Georgia again became what George the Third, in 1783, acknowledged her to be, “a free, sovereign and independent State.” The six members of the Convention who did not sign the ordinance entered on the journal the following quasi protests:

“While we most solemnly protest against the action of the majority in adopting an ordinance for the immediate and separate secession of this State, and would have preferred the policy of co-operation with our Southern sister States, yet, as good citizens, we yield to the will of a majority of her people as expressed by their representatives, and we pledge “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” to the defence of Georgia, if necessary, against hostile invasion from any source whatever.

MILLEDGEVILLE, GA. January 22d. 1861.
JAMES P. SIMMONS, of Gwinnett,
THOMAS M. MCRAE, of Montgomery,
F. H. LATIMER, of Montgomery,
P. M. BYRD, of Hall.
JAMES SIMMONS, of Pickens.”

The party which had in the Presidential election of 1860, through a triple division in the ranks of those who were in favor of the Union under the Constitution, gotten control of the government, flushed by victory, grew more and more bold, aggressive and defiant. The South was put on notice that she should not peaceably exercise what had been declared by some of the most eminent men at the North to be “the unquestioned right of secession.” All efforts of the patriotic men in the “border States” at an amicable adjustment of differences was futile. Duly accredited representatives of the aggrieved States sent to Washington to seek a peaceful settlement of differences, were spurned from the White House; troops were called for to invade the South and coerce sovereign States, one of which, North Carolina, expressly reserved the right to withdraw from the Union when she entered it. One of the most sanguinary and destructive wars of two thousand years was the result, in which nearly three millions of Federal soldiers were arrayed against barely six hundred thousand Confederates, a disparity of five to one. Georgia sent to the field, to battle for rights guaranteed to her by the Constitution, a hundred thousand men, one-third of whom perished in the conflict, and one-half of the remainder returned to their devastated homes wearing the scars of honorable battle; her territory was invaded; a Federal army marched through the State, from border to border, to the sea, leaving a black path of desolation and want behind it fifty miles wide and four hundred miles long, and at the end of the struggle the accumulated wealth of a century and a quarter had been reduced from a thousand millions of dollars to less than two hundred millions, and more than thirty thousand of the flower of her manhood filled soldiers’ graves in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Then followed, when the gallant old State was prostrate and bleeding at every pore, and every home was a house of mourning, the “reconstruction era” when the rapacious carpet-baggers and the unsavory scalawags swarmed in the commonwealth as did the locusts in Egypt of old, plundering its treasury and arraying race against race. But of them and their misdeeds in another volume.