xt72fq9q2f54 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt72fq9q2f54/data/mets.xml Holt, Joseph, 1807-1894. 1861  books b92e509h721861b2009 English Bradley & Gilbert : Louisville, Ky. Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Kentucky --Politics and government --1861-1865 United States --Politics and government --1861-1865. Letter from the Hon. Joseph Holt : upon the policy of the general government, the pending revolution, its objects, its probable results if successful, and the duty of Kentucky in the crisis. text Letter from the Hon. Joseph Holt : upon the policy of the general government, the pending revolution, its objects, its probable results if successful, and the duty of Kentucky in the crisis. 1861 2009 true xt72fq9q2f54 section xt72fq9q2f54 




Policy of the General Government,

3* THE








Washington, May 31. 186J.

J. F, Speed', I-'sq.:

My Dear Sir: The recent overwhelming rote in favor of the Union m Kentucky has afforded unspeakable gratification to all true men throughout the country. That vote indicates that, the people of that gallant Slate have been neither seduced by the arts nor terrified by the menaces of the revolutionists iri their midst, and that it is their fixed purpose to remain faithful to a Government which, for nearly seventy vears, has remained faithful to them. Still it cannot be denied that there is in the bosom of that State a band of agitators, who, though few in number, are yet powerful from the public confidence they have enjoyed, and who have been, and doubduss wdl continue to be, unceasing in their endeavors to force Kentucky to-unite her fortunes with those of the rebel Confederacy of the South. In view of this and of the well known fact that several of the seceded States have by fraud and violence been driven to occupy their present false and fatal position, 1 cannot, even with the encouragement of her late vote before me, look upon the political future of our native State without a painful solicitude. Never have the safety and hpnor of her people required the exercise of so much vigilance and of so much courage on their p:irt. If true to themselves, the stars and stripes, which, like angels' wings, have so- long guarded their homes from every oppression, will still be theirs ; but if, chasing the dreams of men's ambition, they shall prove false, the blackness of darkness can but faintlv predict the gloom that awaits them. The Legislature, it seems, has determined by resolution thattheState pending the present unhappy war, shall occupy neutral ground. I must say, in all frankness and Without designing to reflect upon the course or sentiments of any, that, in this struggle for the existence of. our Government, I can neither practice, nor profess, nor feel neutrality. I would as soon think of being neutral iti a contest between an officer of juslr e and an incendiary arrested in an attempt to fire the dwelling over my head ; for the Government whose overthrow is sought is for me the shelter not only of home, kindred, and friends, but of every earthly blessing which 1 can hope to enjoy on this side of the grave. If, however, from a natural horror of fratricidal strife, or from her intimate social and business relations with the South, Kentucky shall determine to maintain the neutral attitude assumed for her by her Legislature, her position will still be an honorable one, though falling fir short of that full measure of loyalty which her history has so constantly illustrated. Her executive, ignoring, as I am happy to believe, alike the popular and legislative sentiment of the State, has. by proclamation, forbidden (he Government of the United States from marching troops across her territorv. 'i his is, in no sense, a neutral step, but one of aggressive hostility.   The troops of the Federal Government have 

as clear a constitutional rig-ht to pass over the soil of Kentucky as the}7 have to much along the streets of Washington, and could this prohibition be effective, it would not only be a violation of the fundamental law, hut would, in all its tendencies, be directly in advancement of the revolution, and might, in an emergency easily imagined, compromise the highest national interests I was rejoiced that the Legislature so promptly refused to endorse this proclamation as expressive (if the t ue policy of the Slate. But I turn away from even.this to the ballot box, and find an abounding consolation in the conviction it inspires, that the popular heart of Kentucky, in its devotion to the Union, is far in advance alike of legislative resolve and of Execute proclamation.

But as it is well understood that the late popular demonstration has rather scotched than killed rebellion in Kentucky, I propose inquiring, as briefly as practicable; whether, in the recent action or present declared policy of the Administration, or in the history of the pending revolution, or in the objects it seeks to accomplish, or in the results winch must follow from it, if successful, there can be discovered any reasons why that Slate should sever the ties that unite her witli a Confederacy in who-e councils and upon whose battle fields she has won so much fame, and under whose protection she has enjoyed so much prosperity.

P'or more than a month after the inauguration of President Lincoln the manifestation seemed unequivocal that his Administration would seek a peaceful solution of our itnhappv political troubles, and would look to time and amendments to the Federal Constitution, adopte I in accordance with its provisions, to bring back the revolted States to their allegiance. So marked was the effect of ihese manifestations in tranquilizing the Border Stales ami reassuring their loyaltv, that the conspirators who had set this revolution on foot took the alarm. While affecting to despise these States as not sufficiently intensified in thei- devotion to African servitude, they knew they could never succeed in their treasonable enterprise without their support. Hence it was resolved to precipitate a collision of arms with the Federal authorities, in the hope that, under the panic and exasperation in* cident to the commencement of a civil war. the Border States, following the natural bent of their sympathies, would array themselves against the Government. Foit Sumpter, occupied by a feeble garrison, and girdled by powerful if not impregnable batteries, afforded convenient means for ac-com lishing their purpose, and for testing also their favorite theory that blood was needed to cement the new Confederacy. Its provisions were exhausted, and the^req test made by the President in the interests of peace and humanity, for the privilege of replenishing its stores, had been refused. The Confederate authorites were aware   for so the gallant commander of the fort had declared to them   that in two days a capitulation from starvation must take place. A peaceful surrender, however, would not have subserved their aims. They sought, the clash of arms and the effusion of blood as an instrumentality for impressing the Border States, and they sought the humiliation of the Government and the dishonor of its flag as a means of giving prestige to their own cause. The result is known. Without the slightest provocation a heavy cannonade was opened upon the fort, and borne by its helpless garrison for hours without reply, and when, in the progress of the bombardment, the fortification became wrapped in flames, the besieging batteries in violation of the usages of civilized warfare, instead of relaxing or suspending, redoubled their fires.   A more wanton or wicked 
   war was never commenced on any Government whose history has been written. Contemporary with and following the fall of Sumpter, the siege of Fort Pickens was and still is actively pressed ; the property of the United States Government continued to be seized wherever found, and its troops, by fraud or force, captured in the State of Texas in violation of a solemn compact with its authorities that they should be permitted to embark without molestation. This was the requital which the lone star State made to brave men who, through long years of peril and privation, had guarded its frontiers against the incursions of the savages. In the midst of the most active and extended warlike preparations in the South, the announcement was made by the Secretary of War of the seceded States, and echoed with taunis and insolent bravadoes by the Southern press, that Washington City was to be invaded and captured, and that the flag of the Confederate States would soon float over the dome of its Capitol, Soon thereafter there followed an invitation to all the world   embracing necessarily the outcasts and desperadoes of every sea   to accept letters of marque and reprisal, to prey upon the rich and unprotected commerce of the United States.

In view of these events and threatenings, what was the duty of the Chief Magistrate of the Republic ? He might have taken counsel of the revolutionists and trembled under their menaces ; he might, upon the fall of Sumpter, have directed that Fort Pickens should be surrendered without firing a gun in its defence, and proceeding yet further, and meeting fully the requirements of the "let-us-alone" policy insisted on in the South, he might have ordered that the stars and stripes should be laid in the dust in the presence of every bit of rebel bunting that might appear. But he did none of these things, nor could he have done them without forgetting his oath and betraying the most sublime trust that has ever been confided to the hands of man. With a heroic fidelity to his constitutional obligations, feeling justly that these obligations eharged him with the protection of the Republic and its Capital against the assaults alike of foreign and domestic enemies, he threw himself on the loyalty of the country for support in the struggle upon which he was about to enter, and nobly has that appeal been responded to. States containing an aggregate population of nineteen millions have answered to the appeal as with the voice of one man, offering soldiers without number, and treasure without limitation, for the service of the Government. In these States, fifteen hundred thousand freemen cast their votes in favor of candidates supporting the rights of the South, at the last Presidential election, and yet everywhere, alike in popular assemblies and upon the tented field, this million and a half of voters are found yielding to none in the zeal with which they rally to their country's flag. They are not less the friends of the South than before; but they realize that the question now presented is not one of administrative policy, or of the claims of the North, the South, the East, or the West; but is, simply, whether nineteen millions of people shall tamely or ignobly permit five or six millions to overthrow and destroy institutions which are the common property, and have been the common blessings and glory of all. The great thoroughfares of the North, the East, and the West, are luminous with the banners and glistening with the bayonets of citizen soldiers marching to the Capital, or to other points of rendezvous ; but they come in no hostile spirit to the South. If called to press her soil, they will not ruffle a flower of her gardens, nor a blade of grass of her fields in unkindness. No excesses will mark the footsteps of the armies of the Republic; no institution of the States will be invaded or 

tampered with, no rights of persons or of property will be violated. The known purposes of the Administration, and the high character of the troops employed, alike guarantee the truthfulness of this statement. When an insurrection was apprehended a few weeks since in Maryland, the Massachusetts regiment at once offered their services to suppress it. These volunteers have been denounced by the press of the South as "knaves and vagrants," "the dregs and offscourings of the populace," who would ''rather filch a handkerchief than fight an enemy in manly combat; yet we know, here, that their discipline and bearing are most admirable, and, I presume, it may be safely affirmed that a larger amount of social position, culture, fortune and elevation of character, has never been found in so large an army in any age or country. If they go to the South, it will be as friends and protectors, to relieve the Union sentiment of the seceded States from the cruel domination by which it is oppressed and silenced, to unfurl the stars and stripes in the midst of those who long to look upon them, and to restore the flag that bears them to the forts and arsenals from which disloyal hands have torn it. Their mission will be one of peace, unless wicked and blood-thirsty men shall unsheath the sword across their pathway.

It is in vain for the revolutionists to exclaim that this is "subjugation." It is so, precisely in the sense in which you and I and all law-abiding citizens are subjugated. The people of the South are our brethren, and while we obey the laws enacted by our joint authority, and keep a compact to which we are all parties, we only ask that they shall be required to do the same. We believe that their safety demands this ; we know that ours does. We impose no burden which we ourselves do not bear; we claim no privilege or blessing which our brethren of the South shall not equally share. Their country is our country, and ours is theirs; and that unity both of country and Government which the providence of God and the compacts of men have created we could not ourselves, without self-immolation, destroy, nor can we permit it to be destroyed by others.

Equally vain is it for them to declare that they only wish "to be let alone," and that, in establishing the independence of the seceded States, they do those which remain in the old confederacy no harm. The free States, if allowed the opportunity of doing so, will undoubtedly concede every guarantee needed to afford complete protection to the institutions of the South, and to furnish assurances of her perfect equality in the Union ; but all such guarantees and assurances are now openly spurned, and the only Southern right now insisted on is that of dismembering the republic. It is perfectly certain that in the attempted exercise of this right neither States nor statesmen will be "let alone." Should a ruffian meet me in the streets, and seek with his ax to hew an arm and a leg from my body, I would not the less resist him because, as a dishonored and helpless trunk, 1 might perchance survive the mutilation. It is easy to perceive what fatal results to the old confederacy would follow should the blow now struck at its integrity ultimately triumph. We can well understand what degradation it would bring to it abroad and what weakness at home ; what exhaustion from incessant war and standing armies, and from the erection of fortifications along the thousands of miles of new frontier ; what embarrassments to commerce from having its natural channels encumbered or cut off'; what elements of disintegration and revolution would be introduced from 
   the pernicious example ; and, above all, what humiliation'would cover the whole American people for having' failed in their great, mission to demonstrate before the world the capacity of our race for self-government.

While a far more fearful responsibility has fallen upon President Lincoln than upon any of his predecessors, it must be admitted that he has met it with promptitude and fearlessness. Cicero, in one of his orations against Catiline, speaking of the credit due himself for having suppressed the conspiracy of that arch-traitor, said, "if tlie glory of him who* founded Rome was great, how much greater should be that of him who had saved it from overthrow after it had grown to be the mistress of the world ?" So it may be said of the glory of that statesman or chieftain who shall snatch from the vortex of revolution this republic, now that it lias expanded from ocean to ocean, has become the admiration of the world, and lias rendered the fountains of the lives of thirty millions of people fountains of happiness.

The vigorous measures adopted for the safety of Washington and the Government, itself may seem open to criticism, in some of their details, to those who have yet to learn that not only has war like peace its laws, but that it has also its privileges and its duties. Whatever of severity, or even of irregularity, may have arisen, will find its justification in the pressure of the terrible necessity under which the Administration has been called to act. When a man feels the poignard of the destroyer at his bosom, he is not likely to consult the law books as to the mode or measure of his right of self defence. What is true of individuals is in this respect equally true of governments. The man who thinks he has become didoyal because of what the Administration has done, will probably discover, after a close self-examination, that he was disloyal before. But for what has been done, Washington might ere this have been a smouldering heap of ruins.

They have noted the course of public affairs to little advantage who suppose that the election of Mr. Lincoln was the real ground of the revolutionary outbreak that 1ms occurred. The roots of the revolution may be traced back for more than a quarter of a century, and an unholy lust for power is the soil out of which it sprang. A prominent member of the band of agitators declared in one of his speeches at Charleston, last November or December, that they had been occupied for thirty years in the work of severing South Carolina from the Union. When General Jackson crushed nullification, he said it would revive again under the form of the slavery agitation : and we have lived to see his prediction verified. Indeed that agitation, during the last fifteen or twenty years, has been almost the entire stock in trade of Southern politicians. The Southern people, known to be as generous in their impulses as they are chivalric, were not wrought into a frenzy of passion by the intemperate words of a few fanatical abolitionists ; for these words, if left to themselves, would have fallen to the ground as pebbles into the sea, and would have been heard of no more. But it was the echo of those words, repeated with exaggerations for the thousandth time by Southern politicians, in the halls of Congress, and in the deliberative and    popular assemblies, and through the press of the South, that, produced the exasperation that has proved so potent a lever in the hands of the conspirators. The cloud was fully charged, and the juggling revolutionists who held the wires and could at will direct its lightnings appeared at Charleston, broke up the Democratic Convention assembled to nominate a candidate for the Presidency, and thus secured the election of Mr. Lincoln. Having thus rendered tins certain, they at once set to work to bring the popular 
   mind of the South to the point of determining in advance, that the election of a Republican President would be, per se, cause for a dissolution of the Union. They were but too successful, and to this result the inaction and indecision of the Border States deplorably contributed. When the election of Mr. Lincoln was announced, there was rejoicing in the streets of Charles-ton, and doubtless at other points in the South ; for it was believed by the conspirators that this had brought a tide in the current of their in acid nations which would bear them on to victory. The drama of secession was now open, and State after State rapidly rushed out of the Urion, and their members withdrew from Congress. The revolution was pressed on with this hot haste in order that no time should be allowed for reaction in the Northern mind, or for any adjustment of the slavery issues by the action of Congress or of the State Legislatures. Had the Southern members continued in their seats, a satisfactory compromise would, no doubt, have been arranged and passed before the adjournment of Congress. As it was, after their retirement, and after Congress had become Republican, an amendment to the Constitution was adopted by a two-thirds vote, declaring that Congress should never interfere with slavery in the States, and declaring, further, that this amendment should be irrevocable. Thus was falsified the clamor so long and so insidiously rung in the ears of the Southern people, that the abolition of slavery in the Slates was the ultimate aim of the Republican party. But even this amendment, and all others whii.lt may be needed to furnish the guarantees demanded, are now defeated by the secession of eleven States, which, claiming to be out of the Union, will refuse to vote upon, and in effect will vote against, any proposals to modify the Federal Constitution. There are now thirty-four States m the confederacy, three-fourths of which, being twenty-six, must concur in the adoption of any amendment before it can become a part of the Constitution ; but the secession of eleven States leaves but twenty-three whose vote can pos *ibly be secured, which is less than the constitutional number.

Thus we have the extraordinary and discreditable spectacle of a revolution made by certain States professedly on the ground that guarantees for she safety of their institutions are denied them, and at the .same time, instead of co-operating with their sister States in obtaining these guarantees, they designedly assume a hostile attitude, and thereby render it constitutionally impossible to secure them. This profound dissimulation shows that it was not the safety of the South but its severance from the Confederacy which was sought from the beginning. Contemporary with, and in sorn#. instances preceding these acts of secession, the gieatest outrages were committed upon the Government of the United States by the States engaged m them. Its forts, arsenals, arms, barracks, customhouses, post-offices, moneys, and indeed every species of property within the limits of these States, were seized and appropriated, down to the very hospital stores for the sick soldiers. More than half a million of dollars was plundered from the mint at New Orleans. United States vessels were received from the defiled hands of their officers in command, and, as if in the hope of consecrating official treachery as one of the public virtues of the age, the surrender of an entire military department by a General, to the keeping of whose lion or It had been confided, was deemed worthy of the commendation and thank* of the conventions of several States. All these lawless proceedings were well understood to have been prompted and directed by men occupying    seats in the Capitol, some of whom were bank enough to declare that they 

could not and would not, though in a minority, live under a Government which they could not control. In this declaration is found the key which unlocks the whole of the complicated machinery of this revolution. The profligate ambition of public men, in all ages and lands, has been the rock on which republics have been split. Such men have arisen in our midst-    men who, because unable permanently to grasp the helm of the ship, are willing to destroy it in the hope to command some one of the rafts that may float away from the wreck. The effect is to degrade us to a level with the military bandits of Mexico and South America, who, when beaten at ac election, fly to arms, and seek to master by the sword what they have been unable to control by the ballot-box.

The atrocious acts enumerated were acts of war, and might all have been treated as such by the late Administration ; but the President patriotically cultivated peace   -how anxiously, and how patiently, the country well knows. While, however, the revolutionary leaders greeted him with all bails to his face, they did not the less diligently continue to Avhet their swords behind his back. Immense military preparations were made, so that when the moment for striking at the Government of the United States arrived, the revolutionary States leaped into the contest clad in full armor.

As if nothing should be wanting to darken this page of history, the 'seceded States have already entered upon the work of confiscating the debts (due from their citizens to the North and North-west. The millions thus ^gained will doubtless prove a pleasant substitute for those guarantees now    so scornfully rejected. To these confiscations will probably succeed soon those of lands and negroes owned by the citizens of loyal States; and, indeed, the apprehension of this step is already sadly disturbing the fidelity   f non-resident proprietors. Fortunately, however, infirmity of faith, springing from such a cause, is not likely to be contagious. The war begun is being prosecuted by the Confederate States in a temper as fierce and unsparing as that which characterises conflicts between the most hostile nations. Letters of marque and reprisal are being granted to all who seek them, so that our coasts will soon swarm with these piratical cruisers, as the President has properly denounced them. Every buccaneer who desires to rob American'commerce upon the ocean, can, for the asking, obtain a warrant (to do so, in the name of the new republic. To crown all, large bodies of Indians have been mustered into the service of the revolutionary States, and are now conspicuous in the ranks of the Southern army. A leading North Carolina journal, noting their stalwart frames and unerring mark-manship, observes, with an exultation positively fiendish, that they are armed, not only with the rifle, but also with scalping knife and tomahawk.

Is Kentucky willing to link her name in history with the excesses and crimes which have sullied this revolution at every step of its progress ?    Can she soil her pure hands with its booty? She possesses the noblest heritage that God has granted to his children ; is she prepared to barter it away for that miserable mess of pottage, which the gratification of the 'unholy ambition of her public men would bring to her lips ? Can she, without laying her face in the dust for very shame, become a participant in the spoliation of the commerce of her neighbors and friends, by contributing '.her star, hitherto so stainless in its glory, to light the corsair on his way ? Has the war-whoop, which used to startle the sleep of our frontiers, so died away in her ears that she is willing to take the red-handed savage to her bosom as the champion of her rights and the representative of her spirit? 

Must she not first forget her own heroic sons who perished, butchered and scalped, upon the disastrous field of Raisin ?

The object of the revolution, as avowed by all who are pressing it forward, is the permanent dismemberment of the Confederacy. The dream of reconstruction   used during the last winter as a lure to draw the hesitating or the hopeful into the movement   has been formally abandoned. If Kentucky separates herself from the Union, it must be upon the basis that the separation is to be final and eternal. Is there aught in the organization or administration of the Government of the United States to justify, on her part, an act so solemn and so perilous ? Could the wisest of her lawyers, if called upon, find material for an indictment in any or in all the pages of the history of the Republic ? Could the most leprous-lipped of its calumniators point to a single State or Territory or community or citizen that is has wronged or oppressed ? It would be impossible. So far as the slave States are concerned, their protection has been complete, and if it has not been, it has been the fault of their statesmen, who have had the control of the Government since its foundation.

The census returns show that during the year 1860 the Fugitive Slave Law was executed more faithfully and successfully than it had been during the preceding ten years. Since the installation of President Lincoln not a case has arisen in which the fugitive has not been returned, and that, too., without any opposition from the people. Indeed, the fidelity with which it was understood to be the policy of the present Administration to enforce the provisions of this law has caused a perfect panic among the runaway slaves in the free States, and they have been escaping in multitudes to Canada, unpursued and unreclaimed by their masters. Is there found in this, reason for a dissolution of the Union ?

That the slave States are not recognized as equals in the Confederacy, has, for several years, been the cry of demagogues and conspirators. But-what is the truth ? Not only according to the theory, but the actual practice of the Government, the slave States have ever been, and still are, in all respects, the peers of the free. Of the fourteen Presidents who have been elected, seven were citizens of slave States, and of the seven remaining, three represented Southern principles, and received the votes of the Southern people ; so that in our whole history but four Presidents have been chosen who can be claimed as the special champions of the policy and principles of the free States, and even these so only in a modified sense. Does this look as if the South had ever been deprived of her equal share of the honors and powers of the Government ? The Supreme Court has decided that the citizens of the slave States can, at will, take their slaves into all the Territories of the United States ; and this decision, which ham never been resisted or interfered with in a single ease, is the law of the land, and the whole power of the Government is pledged to enforce it. That it will be loyally enforced by the present Administration, 1 entertain no doubt. A Republican Congress, at the late session, organized three new Territories, and in the organic law of neither was there introduced, or attempted to be introduced, the slightest restriction upon the rights of the Southern emigrant to bring his slaves with him. At this moment, therefore   and I state it without qualification   there is not a Territory belonging to the United States into which the Southern people may not introduce their slaves at pleasure, and enjoy their complete protection. Kentucky should consider this great and undeniable fact, before which all the frothy 

rant of demagogues and disunionists must disappear as a bank of fog before the wind. I Jut were it otherwise, and did a defect exist in our organic law or in the practical administra'ion of the Government in reference to the rights of Southern slaveholders in the Territories, still the question would be a mere abstraction, since the laws of climate forbid the establishment of slavery in such latitudes ; and to destroy such institutions as ours for such a cause, instead of patiently trying to remove it, would be little short of national insanity. It would be to burn the house down over our heads merely because there is a leak in the roof; to scuttle the ship in mid-ocean merely because there is a difference of opinion among the crew as to the. point of the compass to which the vessel should be steered ; it would be, in fact, to apply the knife to the throat instead of to the cancer of the patient.

But what remains ? Though, say the disunionists, the Fugitive Slave Law is honestly enforced, and though, under the shelter of the Supreme Court, we can take our slaves into the Territories, yet the Northern people will persist in discussing the institution of slavery, and therefore we will break up the Government. It is true that slavery has been very in temperately discussed in the North, and it is equally true that until we have an Asiatic despotism, crushing out all freedom of speech and of the press, this discussion will probably continue. In this age and country ail institutions, human and divine, are discussed, and so they ought to be ; and all that cannot bear discussion must go to the wall, where they ought to go. It is not pretended, however, that the discussion of slavery, which has been continued in our country for more than forty years, has in any manner disturbed or weakened the foundation of the institution. On the contrary, we learn from the press of the seceded States that their slaves were never more tranquil or obedient. There are zealots   happily few in number   both North and South, whose language upon this question is alike extravagan