TRIGGER WARNING: There is real history ahead which isn’t for the faint of heart!
Why did Mississippi secede from the United States?
Perhaps you have heard from a modern day Rainbow Confederate that it had “nothing to with race” and “nothing to do with slavery.” After all, hundreds of thousands of black people fought for the Confederacy and tens of thousands of them “rode with Forrest.” As it happens, the historical Confederacy was a multiracial paradise much like the contemporary United States.
There are thousands of Baby Boomers who have lapped up this nonsense. It strikes me as the strangest thing in the world. I think the main reason that the Baby Boomer generation singularly failed to preserve our Southern heritage is because the Boomers grew up in what was in hindsight a very unusual and transformative epoch of Southern history in which our people were losing touch with our roots in the age of the bulldozer, the suburb, the air conditioner and the television. This is why they created for themselves a fake narrative of Southern history which is as fake as their “Judeo-Christian” religion.
We’re not going to fight the culture war though in the same way as the disingenuous Baby Boomer generation. It makes much more sense to tell people the truth about our heritage. We’re living in a different time in which the old system is no longer as hegemonic as it used to be. Instead, the faith in the hoary pieties of the old system is crumbling and our generation is increasingly open to new ideas which are, shall we say, well outside of the “mainstream.” In my view, the children of the Baby Boomers were born into a rootless world and are searching for a lost sense of identity.
I think this is why I became so interested in my own sense of identity. It is why I became interested in exploring my own Southern heritage. What is that heritage … really? The whole point of this series is to share some of the most interesting things I have found in the course of that investigation.
As the Southern states seceded from the Union, they sent secession commissioners as ambassadors to other Southern states to persuade them to secede from the Union as well. Mississippi’s secession commissioner William L. Harris was a native of Georgia and was dispatched by Gov. John Pettus to his home state to make the case for secession to the Georgia convention.
Here is the speech that William L. Harris gave to the Georgia convention which was so popular that a thousand copies of it were printed and distributed as a pamphlet:
“There were three candidates presented to the North by Southern men, all of whom represented the last degree of conservatism and concession, which their respective parties were willing to yield, to appease the fanaticism of the North. Some of them were scarcely deemed sound, in the South, on the slavery question, and none of them suited our ultra men. And yet the North rejected them all; and their united voice, both before and since the overwhelming triumph in this election, has been more defiant and more intolerant than ever before. They have demanded, and now demand, equality between the white and negro races, under our Constitution; equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage, equality in the honors and emoluments of office, equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony. The cry has been, and now is, “that slavery must cease, or American liberty must perish,” that “the success of Black Republicanism is the triumph of anti-slavery,” “a revolution in the tendencies of the government that must be carried out.”
To-day our government stands totally revolutionized in its main features, and our Constitution broken and overturned. The new administration, which has effected this revolution, only awaits the 4th of March for the inauguration of the new government, the new principles, and the new policy, upon the success of which they have proclaimed freedom to the slave, but eternal degradation for you and for us.
No revolution was ever more complete, though bloodless, if you will tamely submit to the destruction of that constitution and that Union our fathers made.
Our fathers made this a government for the white man, rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality.
This new administration comes into power, under the solemn pledge to overturn and strike down this great feature of our Union, without which it would never have been formed, and to substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.
Our fathers secured to us, by our Constitutional Union, now being overturned by this Black Republican rule, protection to life, liberty and property, all over the Union, and wherever its flag was unfurled, whether on land or sea.
Under this wretched, lawless spirit and policy, now usurping the control of that government, citizens of the South have been deprived of their property, and for attempting to seek the redress promised by the compromise laws, have lost their liberty and their lives.
Equality of rights secured to white men, in equal sovereign States, is among the most prominent features of the Constitution under which we have so long lived.
This equality has been denied us in the South for years in the common territories, while the North has virtually distributed them as bounties to abolition fanatics and foreigners, for their brigand service in aiding in our exclusion.
Our Constitution, in unmistakable language, guarantees the return of our fugitive slaves. Congress has recognized her duty in this respect, by enacting proper laws for the enforcement of this right.
And yet these laws have been continually nullified, and the solemn pledge of the Compromise of 1850, by which the North came under renewed obligations to enforce them, has been faithlessly disregarded, and the government and its officers set at defiance.
Who now expects these rebels against the laws passed by their own consent and procurement — rebels against justice and common honesty — to become pious patriots by the acquisition of power? Who now expects Mr. Lincoln to become conservative, when the only secret of his success, and the only foundation of his authority, is the will and command of that robber clan, whose mere instrument he is, who have achieved this revolution in our government by treading under their unhallowed feet our Constitution and laws and the Union of our fathers, and by openly defying high heaven by willful and corrupt perjury?
And, above all, who is it in the South, born or descended of Revolutionary sires, who so loves such company, as that he will long hesitate before he can obtain the consent of a virtuous and patriotic heart and conscience to separate from them forever?
Mississippi is firmly convinced that there is but one alternative:
This new union with Lincoln Black Republicans and free negroes, without slavery, or, slavery under our old constitutional bond of union, without Lincoln Black Republicans, or free negroes either, to molest us.
If we take the former, then submission to negro equality is our fate. if the latter, then secession is inevitable — each State for itself and by itself, but with a view to the immediate formation of a Southern Confederacy, under our present Constitution, by such of the slave-holding States as shall agree in their conventions to unite with us.
Mississippi seeks no delay — the issue is not new to her people. They have long and anxiously watched its approach they think it too late, now, to negotiate more compromises with bankrupts in political integrity whose recreancy to justice, good faith and constitutional obligations is the most cherished feature of their political organization.
She has exhausted her rights in sacrificial offerings to save the Union, until nearly all is lost but her honor and the courage to defend it. She has tried conventions until they have become the ridicule of both our friends and our enemies — mere instruments of fraudulent evasion and delay, to wear out the spirit of our people and encourage the hopes of our common enemy. In short, she is sick and tired of the North, and pants for some respite from eternal disturbance and disquiet. . . .
I need not remind your great State, that thousands and thousands of her sons and daughters, who have sought and found happy homes and prosperous fortunes in the distant forests of her old colonial domain, though now adopted children of Mississippi, still cling with the fond embrace of filial love to this old mother of States and of statesmen, from whom both they and their adopted State derive their origin. It will be difficult for such to conceive, that they are not still the objects of your kind solicitude and maternal sympathy.
Mississippi indulges the most confident expectation and belief, founded on sources of information she cannot doubt, as well as on the existence of causes, operating upon them, alike as upon her, that every other Gulf State will stand by her side in defence of the position she is about to assume; and she would reproach herself, and every Georgia son within her limits, would swell with indignation, if she hesitated to believe that Georgia too, would blend her fate with her natural friends; her sons and daughters — her neighboring sisters in the impending struggle.
Whatever may be the result of your deliberations, I beg to assure her from my intimate knowledge of the spirit and affections of our people, that no enemy to her constitutional rights, may consider his victory won, while a Mississippian lives to prolong the contest. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, the part of Mississippi is chosen, she will never submit to the principles and policy of this Black Republican Administration.
She had rather see the last of her race, men, women and children, immolated in one common funeral pile [pyre], than see them subjected to the degradation of civil, political and social equality with the negro race.”
I mean … there are strong, fighting words and then there is this which is fire water. “Our fathers made this a government for the White man?” So, they preferred to be “immolated in one common funeral pyre” rather than be “subjected to the degradation of civil, political and social equality with the negro race”? Why was I never told this by the Baby Boomer Rainbow Confederates?
Why didn’t anyone storm out of the Georgia convention in protest of the racism and white supremacy of William L. Harris’s incendiary speech? The answer is that the very term “racism” and the whole idea that “racism” is like the worst thing in the world is an idea which didn’t exist at the time and which only caught on in the age of the television and college education after the Second World War.
The Boomers were the first generation in Southern history to be raised to believe that “racism” is immoral. There were authority figures on television and in our leading universities who were telling people this at the time. It’s why there was so much resistance to the Civil Rights Movement in the South. It was a novel idea at the time, not something that can be traced back to the Founding Fathers.
Note: The whole thrust of the speech is that Mississippians are but transplanted Georgians who have moved west across the Gulf Coastal Plain into “her old colonial domain.”
It’s true that a great number of the settlers of Mississippi came from Georgia. Many also came down the Natchez Trace from Tennessee and down the Mississippi River from Kentucky. The Mississippi Delta was settled later by some of the richest planters from all over the South.