Southern History Series: Alabama Secession Commissioner Stephen F. Hale’s Letter to Kentucky

Editor’s Note: This isn’t what I was told by the Rainbow Confederates!

Stephen Fowler Hale, a native of Kentucky, was Alabama’s secession commissioner to Kentucky. After moving to Alabama, he served in the Alabama state legislature, fought in the Mexican War and was later appointed Alabama’s secession commissioner to Kentucky. He was one of many secession commissioners who argued on behalf of their state for other Southern states to leave the Union. Hale served as the lieutenant colonel of the 11th Alabama and died leading a charge at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill. He signed the Confederate Constitution. Hale County, AL is named in his honor.

Here is the letter sent by Hale to Gov. Beriah McGoffin of Kentucky in which he attempts to persuade Kentucky to leave the Union:

“To His Excellency B. McGoffin, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

I have the honor of placing in your hands herewith, a Commission from the Governor of the State of Alabama, accrediting me as a Commissioner from that State to the sovereign State of Kentucky, to consult in reference to the momentous issues now pending between the Northern and Southern States of this Confederacy. Although each State, as a sovereign political community, must finally determine these grave issues for itself, yet the identity of interest, sympathy, and institutions, prevailing alike in all the slaveholding States, in the opinion of Alabama, renders it proper that there should be a frank and friendly consultation, by each one, with her sister Southern States, touching their common grievances, and the measures necessary to be adopted to protect the interest, honor, and safety of their citizens.

I come, then, in a spirit of fraternity, as the Commissioner on the part of the State of Alabama, to confer with the authorities of this Commonwealth, in reference to the infraction of our Constitutional rights, wrongs done and threatened to be done, as well as the mode and measure of redress proper to be adopted by the sovereign States aggrieved, to preserve their sovereignty, vindicate their rights and protect their citizens. In order to a clear understanding of the appropriate remedy, it may be proper to consider the rights and duties, both of the State and citizen, under the Federal Compact, as well as the wrongs done and threatened.

I therefor submit, for the consideration of your Excellency, the following propositions, which I hope will command your assent and approval …

“What, then are the circumstances under which, and the issues upon which he was elected? His own declarations, and the current history of the times, but too plainly indicate he was elected by a Northern sectional vote, against the most solemn warnings and protestations of the whole South. He stands forth as the representative of the fanaticism of the North, which, for the last quarter of a century, has been making war upon the South, her property, her civilization, her institutions, and her interests; as the representative of that party which overrides all Constitutional barriers, ignores the obligations of official oaths, and acknowledges allegiance to a higher law than the Constitution, striking down the sovereignty and equality of the States, and resting its claims to popular favor upon the one dogma, the Equality of the Races, white and black. . . .

Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as a change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions — nothing less than an open declaration of war — for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans. Especially is this true in the cotton-growing States, where, in many localities, the slave outnumbers the white population ten to one.

If the policy of the Republicans is carried out, according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, and the South submits, degradation and ruin must overwhelm alike all classes of citizens in the Southern States. The slave-holder and non-slave-holder must ultimately share the same fate — all be degraded to a position of equality with free negroes, stand side by side with them at the polls, and fraternize in all the social relations of life; or else there will be an eternal war of races, desolating the land with blood, and utterly wasting and destroying all the resources of the country.

Who can look upon such a picture without a shudder? What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters, in the not distant future, associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped, by the Heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed? In the Northern States, where free negroes are so few as to form no appreciable part of the community, in spite of all the legislation for their protection, they still remain a degraded caste, excluded by the ban of society from social association with all but the lowest and most degraded of the white race. But in the South, where in many places the African race largely predominates, and, as a consequence, the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation, or the extermination of the one or the other, would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should.

But, it is said, there are many Constitutional, conservative men at the North, who sympathize with and battle for us. That is true; but they are utterly powerless, as the late Presidential election unequivocally shows, to breast the tide of fanaticism that threatens to roll over and crush us. With them it is a question of principle, and we award to them all honor for their loyalty to the Constitution of our Fathers. But their defeat is not their ruin. With us it is a question of self-preservation — our lives, our property, the safety of our homes and our hearthstones — all that men hold dear on earth, is involved in the issue. If we triumph, vindicate our rights and maintain our institutions, a bright and joyous future lies before us. We can clothe the world with our staple, give wings to her commerce, and supply with bread the starving operative in other lands, and at the same time preserve an institution that has done more to civilize and Christianize the heathen than all human agencies beside — an institution alike beneficial to both races, ameliorating the moral, physical and intellectual condition of the one, and giving wealth and happiness to the other. If we fail, the light of our civilization goes down in blood, our wives and our little ones will be driven from their homes by the light of our own dwellings. The dark pall of barbarism must soon gather over our sunny land, and the scenes of West India emancipation, with its attendant horrors and crimes (that monument of British fanaticism and folly), be re-enacted in our own land upon a more gigantic scale.”

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  1. Every SCV member ought to have this shoved down his throat as a cure for their rainbow Confederalism.

  2. “a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions”

    Neo-Yankees and Cuckfederates are another class of political relics that we haf to get rid of in order to move into the 21st Century.

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