Southern History Series: William Lowndes Yancey on The Temple of Our Liberty

William Lowndes Yancey, “the Prince of the Fire Eaters,” was Alabama’s leading fire eater and secessionist. Widely considered one of the greatest orators of his day, Yancey was a major figure in Alabama politics in the antebellum era and the secessionist movement in the Deep South. He served in the Confederate Senate and as a Confederate diplomat to England and France.

Yancey is best known for the pivotal role he played in splitting the Democratic Party in 1860 over the issue of squatter sovereignty in the hope that Abraham Lincoln would be elected and that the victory of a “Black Republican” president by a sectional majority could be used to justify the dissolution of the Union. He was more pragmatic than his counterpart Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina.

We have all the time in the world to explore the lives of Yancey, Rhett, Ruffin and the other fire eaters. In the meantime, I have found some quotes from Yancey that I had previously posted here in the archives, which are interesting in light of the David French debate. I have always been fascinated about how these milquetoast cuckservatives came to be held up as thought leaders here in the South while Yancey & Co. were willing to go down in a modern Thermopylae to conserve their way of life.

The following excerpt comes from a speech delivered by William Lowndes Yancey on August 21, 1860 in Memphis:

“If the temple of our liberty, in process of time, should be taken possession of by those who have no right there; if the temple of liberty be perverted from the place where true constitutional liberty is to be had, and the true worship is to be carried on; if we find there the thieves and hucksters, there is a lesson given us in the name of Jesus Christ.”

I think everyone here will agree that thieves and hucksters have taken possession of the “temple of liberty” in Washington, DC. That’s the understatement of the century. Nothing but thieves and hucksters like Blompf have congregated in Washington in our lifetimes.

“When the temple of the Jews, that had been devoted to the worship of the ever-living God, and had been kept pure and undefiled, built without the sound of the hammer or the noise of the chisel, was taken possession of by a people forgetful of the great truths announced to them from Mount Sinai; when the hucksters, and brokers, and thieves, carried on before the altar their selfish and wicked pursuits, there was a Savior who came, and who, with a whip of scorpions, scourged them and drove them out.”

Everyone here knows how that story ended too: the Jews chose Barabbas, and Jesus was crucified before the mob, and nineteen centuries passed before the invention of “Judeo-Christianity.”

“I hope to God there will be some man or set of men, whom Providence will rear in our midst, that when the temple fails into hands unworthy of its charge — that there will be some great WASHINGTON arise, who will be able to scourge them from the temple of freedom, even though he be called a traitor, a CATALINE, a rebel, in that glorious process.”

History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.

These Rainbow Confederate groups that style themselves as defenders of Southern heritage are unworthy of the charge. We are a people who have become forgetful of the great truths of our own culture. It is time to set the record straight and chase out the charlatans.

Here is William Lowndes Yancey offering resolutions at the Alabama Secession Convention in 1861:

“It has been said that this resolution will create discord amongst us–and is not conciliatory. It can only justly be so considered by those opposed to all resistance to the Black Republican power. I, for one, have no desire to conciliate persons occupying such position. I wish here, and elsewhere, to antagonise them.”

Yancey was determined to expose the submissionists. He was determined to antagonize the David Frenches of his day with his candor.

“They simply discriminate between those who are willing to continue the Union upon the principles of the Black Republican party, and those who are willing to resist them, and to dissolve the Union rather than see the Government administered upon those principles. With all who can vote for these resolutions, I can confer, and hope to come to a common conclusion. With those who shall vote against them, I have neither feeling or principle in common.”

Yancey had “neither feeling or principle in common” with those “who are willing to continue the Union upon the principles of the Black Republican party.” Strangely, modern day Rainbow Confederates insist that the historical Confederacy was based upon those principles!

Here’s another classic Yancey quote about the time he killed a man in a duel:

“He who grossly insulted me lies now with the clod upon his bosom … And there let it remain, a legacy to my son, and a warning to others who feel like browbeating a Yancey.”
-William Lowndes Yancey

Yancey spearheaded the formation of secession clubs in the Deep South:

“No National Party can save us; no Sectional Party can do it. But if we could do as our fathers did, organize Committees of Safety all over the cotton states (and it is only in them that we can hope of any effective movement) we shall fire the Southern heart — instruct the Southern mind — give courage to each other, and at the proper moment, by one organized, concerted action, we can precipitate the cotton states into a revolution.”
– William Lowndes Yancey

Yancey warned the North that it was pushing the South to its limit:

“Do not destroy our self respect; do not overtax our manliness. Do not walk in a field and tread on a caterpillar or the poor creature will turn on your boot and try to sting you.”

– William Lowndes Yancey

Here is William Lowndes Yancey making the case for Alabama’s secession from the United States:

“Better far to close our days by an act of duty, life’s aims fulfilled, than to prolong them through the years weighed down with corroding remembrance that we tamely yielded to our love of ease, or our unworthy fears, that noble heritage which was transmitted through toil, sufferings, battle, victory, to go down, unimpaired, to our posterity. As for myself, rather than live on subject to a government that breaks the compact at will and places me in a position of inequality, of inferiority to the Northern free negro, though that life might be illustrated with gilded chains, by luxury and ease, I would in the cause of my State gather around me some brave spirits who, however few in numberwould find a grave which the world would recognizemy countrymen, as a modern Thermopylae.” (Vehement and prolonged applause)

– William Lowndes Yancey

What would Yancey say about living under a government in which straight White Christian Southern men are inferior to transsexuals? What about the people who claim to be conservatives?

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  1. One could argue based on his ideas above that we should limit our political activity to those states that are majority white and conservative. In other words only red states or red counties and avoid psychotic liberal blue states and cities even though they may be all white! Just as he wants Committees of Safety only in the cotton states.

    • Well, there’s no point in campaigning for Southern independence in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Or worrying about Illinois.

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