xt70cf9j3w42 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt70cf9j3w42/data/mets.xml Holt, Joseph, 1807-1894. 1861  books b92e4581h7518612009 English J.G. Gregory : New York Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. United States --Politics and government --Civil War, 1861-1865 Kentucky --Politics and government --1861-1865. The fallacy of neutrality. : an address by the Hon. Joseph Holt, to the people of Kentucky, delivered at Louisville, July 13th, 1861, also his letter to J.F. Speed, esq. text The fallacy of neutrality. : an address by the Hon. Joseph Holt, to the people of Kentucky, delivered at Louisville, July 13th, 1861, also his letter to J.F. Speed, esq. 1861 2009 true xt70cf9j3w42 section xt70cf9j3w42 

1.     Letter of Hon. JOSEPH HOLT to J. P. Speed, Esq., May 31, 1861.    Page 15.

2.     An Address by Hon. JOSEPH HOLT


The People of llentucliy, Delivered at Louisville, Ky., July 13th, 1861. Page 1.

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NO. 46 WALKER STREET. 1861. 

Mr. Holt was next introduced to the audience by Hon. Henry Pirtle, who addressed him a few words of welcome.

Then taking the stand, amid prolonged cheers, Mr. Holt spoke as follows :   

Judge Pirtle : I beg you to be assured that I am most thankful for this distinguished and flattering welcome, and for every one of the kind words which have just fallen from your lips, as I am for the hearty response they have received. Spoken by anybody and anywhere, these words would have been cherished by me; but spoken by yourself and in the presence and on behalf of those in whose midst I commenced the battle of life, whose friendship I have ever labored to deserve, and in whose fortunes I have ever felt the liveliest sympathy, they are doubly grateful to my feelings. I take no credit to myself for loving and being faithful to such a government as this, or for uttering, as I do, with every throb of my existence, a prayer for its preservation. In regard to my official conduct, to which you have alluded with such earnest and generous commendation, I must say that no merit can be accorded to me beyond that of having humbly but sincerely struggled to perform a public duty, amid embarrassments which the world can never fully know. In reviewing what is past, I have and shall ever have a bitter sorrow, that, while I was enabled to accomplish so little in behalf of our betrayed and suffering country, others were enabled to accomplish so much against it. Tou do me exceeding honor in associating me in your remembrance with the hero of Fort Sumter. There is about his name an atmosphere of light that can never grow dim. Surrounded with his little band, by batteries of treason and by infuriated thousands of traitors, the fires upon the altar of patriotism at which he ministered, only waxed the brighter for the gloom that enveloped him, and history will never forget that it was from these fires that was kindled that conflagration that now blazes throughout the length and breadth of the land. Brave among the bravest, incorruptible and unconquerable in his loyalty, amid all the perplexities and trials and sore humiliations that beset him, he well deserves that exalted position in the affections and confidence of 

the fallacy  of neutrality.

the people that he now enjoys; and while none have had better opportunities of knowing this than myself, so I am sure that none could have a prouder joy in bearing testimony to it than I have to-night.

Fellow-Citizens : A few weeks since, in another form, I ventured freely to express my views upon those tragic events which have brought sorrow to every hearthstone and to every heart in our distracted country, and it is not my purpose on this occasion to repeat those views, or to engage in any extended discussion of the questions then examined. It is not necessary that I should do so, since the argument is exhausted, and the popular mind is perfectly familiar with it in all its bearings. I will, however, with your permission, submit a few brief observations upon the absorbing topics of the day, and if I do so with an earnestness and emphasis due alike to the sincerity of my convictions and to the magnitude of the interests involved, it is trusted that none will be offended, not even those who may most widely differ from me.

Could one, an entire stranger to our history, now look down upon the South, and see there a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand men marching in hostile array, threatening the capture of the capital and the dismemberment of the territory of the republic; and could he look again and see that this army is marshalled and directed by officers recently occupying distinguished places in the civil and military service of the country; and further that the states from which this army has been drawn appear to be one vast, seething cauldron of ferocious passion, he would very naturally conclude that the government of the United States had committed some great crime against its people, and that this uprising was in resistance to wrong and outrages which had been borne until endurance was no longer possible. And yet no conclusion could be further from the truth than this. The government of the United States has been faithful to all its constitutional obligations. For eighty years it has maintained the national honor at home and abroad, and by its prowess, its wisdom, and its justice, has given to the title of an American citizen an elevation among the nations of the earth which the citizens of no republic has enjoyed since Rome was mistress of the world. Under its administration the national domain has stretched away to the Pacific, and that constellation which announced our birth as a people, has expanded from thirteen to thirty-four stars, all, until recently, moving undisturbed and undimmed in their orbs of light and grandeur. The rights of no states have been invaded ; no man's property has been despoiled, no man's liberty abridged, no man's life oppressively jeopardized by the action of this government. Under its benign influences the rills of public and private prosperity have swelled into rivulets, and from rivulets into rivers ever brimming in their fullness, and everywhere, and at all periods of its history, its ministrations have fallen as gently'on the people of the United States as do the dews of a Summer's night on the flowers and grass of the gardens and fields. 


"Whence, then, this revolutionary outbreak ? Whence the secret spring of this gigantic conspiracy, which, like some huge boa, had completely coiled itself around the limbs and body of the republic, before a single hand was lifted to resist it ? Strange, and indeed startling, as the announcement must appear when it falls on the ears of the next generation, the national tragedy in whose shadow we stand to-night, has come upon us because, in November last, John 0. Breckinridge was not elected President of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln was. This is the whole story. And I would pray now to know on what was John C. Breckinridge fed that he has grown so great, that a republic founded by Washington and cemented by the best blood that has ever coursed in human veins, is to be overthrown because, forsooth, he cannot be its President ? Had he been chosen we well know that we should not have heard of this rebellion, for the lever with which it is being moved would have been wanting to the hands of the conspirators. Even after his defeat, could it have been guaranteed, beyond all peradventure, that Jeff. Davis, or some other kindred spirit, would be the successor of Mr. Lincoln, I presume we hazard nothing in assuming that this atrocious movement against the government would not have been set on foot. So much for the principle involved in it. This great crime, then, with which we are grappling, sprang from that "sin by which the angels fell"   an unmastered and profligate ambition   an ambition that "would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven"   that would rather rule supremely over a shattered fragment of the republic than run the chances of sharing with others the honors of the whole.

The conspirators of the South read in the election of Mr. Lincoln a declaration that the Democratic party had been prostrated, if not finally destroyed, by the selfish intrigues and corruptions of its leaders; they read, too, that the vicious, emaciated, and spavined hobby of the slavery agitation, on which they had so often rode into power, could no longer carry them beyond a given geographical line of our territory, and that in truth this factious and treasonable agitation, on which so many of them had grown great by debauching and denationalizing the mind of a people naturally generous and patriotic, had run its course, and hence, that from the national disgust for this demagogueing, and for the inexorable law of population, the time had come when all those who had no other political capital than this, would have to prepare for retirement to private life, so far at least as the highest offices of the country were concerned. Under the influence of these grim discouragements they resolved to consummate at once   what our political history shows to have been a long-cherished purpose   the dismemberment of the government. They said to themselves : " Since we can no longer monopolize the great offices of the republic as we have been accustomed to do, we will destroy it and build upon its ruins an empire that shall be all our own, and whose spoils neither the North nor the East nor the West shall share 


with us." Deplorable and humiliating as this certainly is, it is but a rehearsal of the sad, sad story of the past. We had, indeed, supposed that under our Christian civilization we had reached a point in human progress, when a republic could exist without having its life sought by its own offspring ; but the Catilines Of the South have proved that we were mistaken. Let no man imagine that because this rebellion has been made by men renowned in our civil and military history, that it is, therefore, the less guilty or the less courageously to be resisted. It is precisely this class of men who have subverted the best governments that have ever existed. The purest spirits that have lived in the tide of times, the noblest institutions that have arisen to bless our race, have found among those in whom they had most confided, and whom they had most honored, men wicked enough, either secretly to betray them unto death, or openly to seek their overthrow by lawless violence. The republic of England had its Monk; the republic of France had its Bonaparte ;' the republic of Rome had its Caesar and its Catiline, and the Saviour of the world had his Judas Iscariot. It cannot be necessary that I should declare to you, for you know them well, who they are whose parricidal swords are now unsheathed against the republic of the United States. Their names are inscribed upon a scroll of infamy that can never perish. The most distinguished of them were educated by the charity of the government on which they are now making war. For long years they were fed from its table, and clothed from its wardrobe, and had their brows garlanded by its honors. They are the ungrateful sons of a fond mother, who dandled them upon her knee, who lavished upon them the gushing love of her noble and devoted nature, and who nurtured them from the very bosom of her life; and now, in the frenzied excesses of a licentious and baffled ambition, they are stabbing at that bosom with the ferocity with which the tiger springs upon his prey. The President of the United States is heroically and patriotically struggling to baffle the machinations of these most wicked men. I have unbounded gratification in knowing that he has the courage to look traitors in the face, and that, in discharging the duties of his great office, he takes no counsel of his fears. He is entitled to the zealous support of the whole country, and, may I not add without offence, that he will receive the support of all who justly appreciate the boundless blessings of our free institutions ?

If this rebellion succeeds it will involve necessarily the destruction of our nationality, the division of our territory, the permanent disruption of the republic. It must rapidly dry up the sources of our material prosperity, am vear by year we shall grow more and more impoverished, more and more revolutionary, enfeebled, and debased. Each returning election will bring with it grounds for new civil commotions, and traitors, prepared to strike at the country that has rejected their claims to power, will spring up on every side.   Disunion once begun will go on and on indefinitely, and under the in- 


fluence of the fatal doctrine of secession, not only will states secede from states, but counties will secede from states also, and towns and cities from counties, until universal anarchy will be consummated in each individual who can make good his position by force of arms, claiming the right to defy the power of the government. Thus we should have brought back to us the days of the robber barons with their moated castles and marauding retainers. This doctrine when analyzed is simply a declaration that no physical force shall ever be employed in executing the laws or upholding the government, and a government into whose practical administration such a principle has been introduced, could no more continue to exist than a man could live with an angered cobra in his bosom. If you would know what are the legitimate fruits of secession, look at Yirginia and Tennessee, which have so lately given themselves up to the embrace of this monster. There the schools are deserted; the courts of justice closed; public and private credit destroyed; commerce annihilated, debts repudiated; confiscations and spoliations everywhere prevailing; every cheek blanched with fear, and every heart frozen with despair; and all over that desolated land the hand of infuriated passion and crime is waving, with a vulture's scream for blood, the sword of civil war. And this is the Pandemonium which some would have transferred to Kentucky.

But I am not here to discuss this proposition to-night. I wish solemnly to declare before you and the world, that I am for this Union without conditions, one and indivisible, now and forever. I am for its preservation at any and every cost of blood and treasure against all its assailants. I know no neutrality between my country and its foes, whether they be foreign or domestic; no neutrality between that glorious flag which now floats over us, and the ingrates and traitors who would trample it in the dust. My prayer is for victory, complete, enduring and overwhelming, to the armies of the republic over all its enemies. I am against any and every compromise that may be proposed to be made under the guns of the rebels, while, at the same time, I am decidedly in favor of affording every reasonable guarantee for the safety of Southern institutions, which the honest convictions of the people   not the conspirators   of the South may demand, vjhenever they shall lay down them- arms, but not until then. The arbitrament of the sword has been defiantly thrust into the face of the government and country, and there is no honorable escape from it. All guarantees and all attempts at adjustment by amendments to the constitution are now scornfully rejected, and the leaders of the rebellion openly proclaim that they are fighting for their independence. In this contemptuous rejection of guarantees, and in this avowal of the objects of the rebellion now so audaciously made, we have a complete exposure of that fraud which, through the slavery agitation, has been practised upon the public credulity for the last fifteen or twenty years. In the light of this revelation, we feel as one awakened from the suffocating 


tortures of a nightmare, and realize what a baseless dream our apprehensions have been, and of what a traitorous swindle we have been made the victims. They are fighting for their independence! Independence of what ? Independence of those laws which they themselves have aided in enacting; independence of that constitution which their fathers framed and to which they are parties and subject by inheritance; independence of that beneficent government on whose treasury and honors they have grown strong and illustrious. When a man commits a robbery on the highway, or a murder in the dark, he thereby declares his independence of the laws under which he lives, and of the society of which he is a member. Should he, when arraigned, avow and justify the offence, he thereby becomes the advocate of the independence he has thus declared; and, if he resists by force of arms the officer, when dragging him to the prison, the penitentiary, or the gallows, he is thereby fighting for the independence he has thus declared and advocated ; and such is the condition of the conspirators of the South at this moment. It is no longer a question of Southern rights, which have never been violated, nor of security of Southern institutions, which we know perfectly well have never been interfered with by the general government, but it is purely with us a question* of national existence. In meeting this terrible issue which rebellion has made up with the loyal men of the country, we stand upon ground infinitely above all party lines and party platforms    ground as sublime as that on which our fathers stood when they fought the battles of the revolution. I am for throwing into the contest thus forced upon us all the material and moral resources and energies of the nation, in order that the struggle may be brief and as little sanguinary as possible. It is hoped that we shall soon see in the field half a million of patriotic volunteers, marching in columns which will be perfectly irresistible, and, borne in their hands   for no purpose of conquest or subjugation, but of protection only   we may expect within nine months to see the stars and stripes floating in every Southern breeze, and hear going up, wild a3 the storm, the exultant shout of that emancipated people over their deliverance from the revolutionary terror and despotism, by which they are now tormented and oppressed. The war, conducted on such a scale, will not cost exceeding four or five hundred millions of dollars; and none need be startled at the vastness of this expenditure. The debt thus created will press but slightly upon us; it will be paid and gladly paid by posterity, who will make the best bargain which has been made since the world began, if they can secure to themselves, in its integrity and blessings, such a government as this, at such a cost. But, if in this anticipation we are doomed to disappointment; if the people of the United States have already become so degenerate    may I not say so craven   in the presence of their foes as to surrender up this republic to be dismembered and subverted by the traitors who have reared the standard of revolt against it, then, I trust, the volume of Ameri- 


can history will be closed and sealed up forever, and that those who shall survive this national humiliation will take unto themselves some other name,    some name having no relation to the past, no relation to our great ancestors, no relation to those monuments and battle-fields which commemorate alike their heroism, their loyalty, and their glory.

But with the curled lip of scorn we are told by the disunionists that in thus supporting a Republican administration in its endeavors to uphold the constitution and the laws, we are " submissionists," and when they have pronounced this word, they suppose they have imputed to us the sum of all human abasement. Well, let it be confessed; we are "submissionists," and weak and spiritless as it may be deemed by some, we glory in the position we occupy. For example: the law says, "Thou shalt not steal;" we submit to this law, and would not for the world's worth rob our neighbor of his forts, his arsenals, his arms, his munitions of war, his hospital stores, or any thing that is his. Indeed, so impressed are we with the obligations of this law, that we would no more think of plundering from our neighbor half a million of dollars because found in his unprotected mints, than we would think of filching a purse from his pocket in a crowded thoroughfare. Write us down, therefore, "submissionists." Again: the law says, "Thou shalt not swear falsely;" we submit to this law, and while in the civil or military service of the country, with an oath to support the constitution of the United States resting upon our consciences, we would not for any earthly consideration engage in the formation or execution of a conspiracy to subvert that very constitution, and with it the government to which it has given birth. Write us down, therefore, again, "submissionists." Yet again: when a President has been elected in strict accordance with the form and spirit of the constitution, and has been regularly installed into office, and is honestly striving to discharge his duty by snatching the republic from the jaws of a gigantic treason which threatens to crush it, we care not what his name major may not be, or what the designation of his political party, or what the platform on which he stood during the presidential canvass; we believe we fulfil in the sight of earth and heaven our highest obligations to our country, in giving to him an earnest and loyal support in the struggle in which he is engaged.

Nor are we at all disturbed by the flippant taunt that in thus submitting to the authority of our government we are necessarily cowards. We know whence this taunt comes, and we estimate it at its true value. We hold that there is a higher courage in the performance of duty than in the commission of crime. The tiger of the jungle and the cannibal of the South Sea Islands have that courage in which the revolutionists of the day make their especial boast; the angels of God and the spirits of just men made perfect have had, and have that courage which submits to the laws. Lucifer was a non-sub-missionist, and the first secessionist of whom history has given us any 


account, and the chains which he wears fitly, express the fate due to all who openly defy the laws of their Creator and of their country. He rebelled because the Almighty would not yield to him the throne of heaven. The principle of the Southern rebellion is the same. Indeed, in this submission to the laws is found the chief distinction between good men and devils. A good man obeys the laws of truth, of honesty, of morality, and all those laws which have been enacted by competent authority for the government and protection of the country in which he lives ; a devil obeys only his own ferocious and profligate passions. The principle on which this rebellion proceeds, that laws have in themselves no sanctions, no binding force upon the    conscience, and that every man, under the promptings of interest, or passion, or caprice, may, at will, and honorably too, strike at the government that shelters him, is one of utter demoralization, and should be trodden out as you would tread on a spark that has fallen on the roof of your dwelling. Its unchecked prevalence would resolve society into chaos, and leave you without the slightest guarantee for life, liberty, or property. It is* time that, in their majesty, the people of the United States should make known to the world that this government, in its dignity and power, is something more than a moot court, and that the citizen who makes war upon it is a traitor, not only in theory but in fact, and should have meted out to him a traitor's doom. The country wants no bloody sacrifice, but it must and will have peace, cost what it may.

Before closing, I desire to .say a few words on the relations of Kentucky to the pending rebellion; and as we are all Kentuckians here together to-night, and as this is purely a family matter, which concerns the honor of us all, I hope we may be permitted to speak to each other upon it with entire freedom. I shall not detain you with observations on the hostile and defiant position assumed by the governor of your state. In his reply to the requi* sition made upon him for volunteers under the proclamation of the President, he has, in my judgment, written and finished his own history, his epitaph included, and it is probable that in future the world will little concern itself as to what his excellency may propose to do, or as to what he may propose not to do. That response has made for Kentucky a record that has already brought a burning blush to the cheek of many of her sons, and is destined to bring it to the cheek of many more in the years which are to come. It is a shame, indeed a crying shame, that a state with so illustrious a past should have written for her, by her own chief magistrate, a page of history so utterly humiliating as this. But your legislature have determined that during the present unhappy war the attitude of the state shall be that of strict neutrality, and it is upon this determination that I wish respectfully but frankly to comment. As the motives which governed the legislature were doubtless patriotic and conservative, the conclusion arrived at cannot be condemned as dishonorable; still, in view of the manifest duty of the state and 


of possible results, I cannot but regard it as mistaken and false, and one which may have fatal consequences. Strictly and legally speaking, Kentucky must go out of the Union before she can be neutral. Within it she is necessarily either faithful to the government of the United States, or she is disloyal to it. If this crutch of neutrality, upon which her well-meaning but ill-judging politicians are halting, can find any middle ground on which to rest, it has escaped my researches, though I have diligently sought it. Neutrality, in the sense of those who now use the term, however patriotically designed, is, in effect, but a snake in the grass of rebellion, and those who handle it will sooner or later feel its fangs. Said one who spake as never man spake, "He who is not with us is against us;" and of none of the conflicts which have arisen between men or between nations, could this be more truthfully said than of that in which we are now involved. Neutrality necessarily implies indifference. Is Kentucky indifferent to the issue of this contest ? Has she, indeed, nothing at stake ? Has she no compact with her sister states to keep, no plighted faith to uphold, no renown to sustain, no glory to win ? Has she no horror of that crime of crimes now being committed against us by that stupendous rebellion which has arisen like a tempest-cloud in the South? We rejoice to know that she is still a member of this Union, and as such she has the same interest in resisting this rebellion that each limb of the body has in resisting a poignard whose point is aimed at the heart. It is her house that is on fire; has she no interest in extinguishing the conflagration ? Will she stand aloof and announce herself neutral between the raging flames and the brave men who are periling their lives to subdue them ? Hundreds of thousands of citizens of other states    men of culture and character, of thought and of toil   men who have a deep stake in life, and an intense appreciation of its duties and responsibilities, who know the worth of this blessed government of ours, and do not prize even their own blood above it   I say, hundreds of thousands of such men have left their homes, their workshops, their offices, their counting-houses, and their fields, and are now rallying about our flag, freely offering their all to sustain it, and since the days that crusading Europe threw its hosts upon the embattled plains of Asia, no deeper, or more earnest, or grander spirit has stirred the souls of men than that which now sways those mighty masses whose gleaming banners are destined ere long to make bright again the earth and sky of the distracted South. Can Kentucky look upon this sublime spectacle of patriotism unmoved, and then say to herself: " I will spend neither blood nor treasure, but I will shrink away while the battle rages, and after it has been fought and won, I will return to the camp, well assured that if I cannot claim the laurels, I will at least enjoy the blessings of the victory ?" Is this all that remains of her chivalry   of the chivalry of the land of the Shelbys, the Johnsons, the Aliens, the Clays, the Adairs, and the Davises ?   Is there a Kentuckian within the sound of my voice to-night, who 


can hear the anguished cry of his country as she wrestles and writhes in the folds of this gigantic treason, and then lay himself down upon his pillow with this thought of neutrality, without feeling that he has something in his bosom Which stings him worse than would an adder ? Have we, within the brief period of eighty years, descended so far from the mountain heights on which our fathers stood, that already, in our degeneracy, we proclaim our blood too precious, our treasure too valuable to be devoted to the preservation of such a government as this? They fought through a seven years' war, with the greatest power on earth, for the hope, the bare hope, of being able to found this republic, and now that it is no longer a hope nor an experiment, but a glorious reality, which has excited the admiration and the homage of the nations, and has covered us with blessings as "the waters cover the channels of the sea," have we, their children, no years of toil, of sacrifice, and of battle even, if need be, to give, to save it from absolute destruction at the hands of men who, steeped in guilt, are perpetrating against us and humanity a crime, for which I verily believe the blackest page of the history of the world's darkest period furnishes no parallel? Can it be possible that in the history of the American people we have already reached a point of degeneracy so low, that the work of Washington and Franklin, of Adams and Jefferson, of Hancock and Henry, is to be overthrown by the morally begrimed and pigmied conspirators who are now tugging at its foundations ? It would be the overturning of the Andes by the miserable reptiles that are crawling in the sands at their base.

But our neutral fellow-citizens in the tenderness of their hearts say: " This effusion of