January 3, 1860: Albert Gallatin Brown Explains Why Slavery in the Territories Caused the Civil War

On January 3, 1860 Albert Gallatin Brown, Senator from Mississippi took to the floor of the Senate.  In many ways Brown was a remarkable man.  An ardent advocate of education and foe of illiteracy, as governor of Mississippi in 1844-48, he was largely responsible for the creation of a public school system in Mississippi and the foundation of the University of Mississippi.  He was also an ardent advocate of the spread of slavery, and on January 3, 162 years ago, he explained why the issue of slavery in the territories was leading to secession and the Civil War:

I have been asked elsewhere – and probably there is a whispering in the mind of some one who hears me to the same effect now – why are you so tenacious of this principle of protection to slavery in the Territories? What do you expect to accomplish by it? With that frankness which I trust is a part of my character, I will tell you why I am so tenacious. I know that you can never plant slavery in the Territories unless you afford it protection – protection based on statutory law. Without such protection, there never will be another slave Territory; and without slave Territories you can never have slave States. You have, I believe, five Territories now. You are already called on, during the present session, to organize three more. These Territories will rapidly populate, and as rapidly come knocking at the door for admission into the Union. You commenced with thirteen States only a little more than three quarters of a century ago – dating from the birth of the Constitution, not so long as that – and now you have thirty-three, five Territories already organized, and three asking for organization. Of these thirty-three States, fifteen are slaveholding States, and eighteen are non-slaveholding. Under your present policy, all the Territories outstanding, organized and unorganized, and all the territory to be acquired hereafter, will but add to the number of free States; and then, sir, the boast made on the other side of the Chamnber, that when they get the power they will so mold the Constitution, according to the forms of the Constitution itself, as to give them uncontrolled sway – will be carried out with all its force and all its power. It cannot be long, under the present order of things, before the anti-slavery sentiment of this country will have brought into the Union, and added to the non-slaveholding States now in the Union, a sufficient number of States to give them the two thirds required to change the Constitution. That being done, the enunciation so vauntingly made by the distinguished Senator from New York, and followed up by others, that you mean to crush out slavery under the forms of the Constitution, will have been accomplished. I see that things are rapidly drifting in that direction. I see that we can have no more slave States unless we can plant slavery in the Territories; and I see that that cannot be done unless you protect the slaveholder in his rights. If we can have no more slave States, then twenty years will not pass before a change of the Constitution will enable the anti-slavery sentments of the North, under the forms and guarantees of the Constitution, as amended, to overthrow slavery.
I hope I am understood. I am tenacious upon this point, because I want to multiply the number of slave States. I want to multiply the number of slave States because I am, and always have been, a genuine constitutional Union man. I love the Union of our fathers, and yield to no man in deep, earnest, heartfelt devotion to it. They made a slaveholding Union. Washington and Jefferson and Madison, and other illustrious patriots, who took a prominent part in the formation of the Union, were themselves slaveholders, and they gave to slave property the guarantees which the Consitution contains, as expounded by the Supreme Court. By the Union which they made I am ready to stand; for it I am ready to fall; and I will never stand idly by, and see, by your timid time-serving policy, that Union undermined and forced to tumble into ruins.

Nor am I willing to take the position which the President assigns me, of entrenchment beind the courts. No, sir. No man has higher veneration for courts of justice than I have. No man entertains a deeper, more heartfelt reverence for the judges of that illustrious court, which to-day sits in this Capitol, than I do. Sir, I venerate, I revere, I almost reverence these old judges; but when I see them on their trembling limbs treading your streets, I cannot disguise from my own mind that all these old men, in the lapse of a few years, not more than fifteen or twenty at most; must pass from the stage of active existence. The venerable Chief Justice is already over eighty years of age; I am told that the majority of his associates are over seventy. How long can these old men hold out? When they are gone, and the gentlemen on the other side of the Chamber shall have taken possession of the executive and legislative Government, what will happen? That bench now adorned by a Taney, by a Catron, by a Nelson, and by other illustrious judges, will be occupied by such gentlemen as those on the other side of the Chamber. When that day comes, what will become of the Dred Scott decision behind which I am asked to entrench myself? Sir, it will pass away as “the baseless fabric of a vision.” These Senators and other persons outside the Chamber who sympathize with them, will carry their opinions upon the bench, and will as remorselessly overturn the decision rendered by the present judges as they would overturn a decision sounding in mere dollars and cents. Yet, sir, with these facts before us, seeing them as we do, we are asked to give up all struggle to maintain our constitutional rights through the law-making power of the Government, and to rely entirely on the courts. Sir, others may pursue that course which to them seems best; I will pursue my own, and leave to time, the great tester of all truths, to determine whether I am not right.


Published in: on January 3, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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  1. When the South seceded, they gave up all claims to the territories. They were not fighting to “expand slavery”. They seceded because the Party that had backed those who believed it was OK for white southerners (slave holders and non-slaveholders), and even blacks who resisted them, to be murdered with no trial or due process of law. The fought because that same Party invaded them, thus confirming their worst fears about them.

    The war was purely economic. The Northern banks could not lose their cash cow at the South.

    Southern elite held people as property to have cheap labor. That was wrong.

    Northern elite invaded the South to keep from losing the revenue generated by the southern economy. That also was wrong, and is the “cause” of the “Civil War”. Everything else is just scenery.

  2. correction…They seceded because the Party that had backed those who believed it was OK for white southerners (slave holders and non-slaveholders), and even blacks who resisted them, to be murdered with no trial or due process of law, had come to power.

  3. They seceded because the Party that had backed those who believed it was OK for white southerners (slave holders and non-slaveholders), and even blacks who resisted them, to be murdered with no trial or due process of law, had come to power.

    Ummm, yeah, this is a complete fantasy. Outside of a few radicals, there were few Republicans who advocated such lawlessness. The man who was elected president in 1860 specifically condemned the John Brown raids and applauded his execution.

    The war was purely economic. The Northern banks could not lose their cash cow at the South.

    Again, this is a sheer fabrication, but I guess when you spend your days reading Thomas DiLorenzo instead of people who actually know what they’re talking about you might be led to believe such nonsense.

    But hey, just ignore the citation of facts as presented here, and the actual words of someone alive back then, and keep pimping this victimization canard in order to defend the southern hissy fit that led to secession and the Civil War.

  4. After the Civil War Nathan Bedford Forrest listened to a speech by a Southern politician in which he denied that slavery caused the Civil War. Forrest contradicted him, and said that if he hadn’t thought that the war had been about the right to own slaves, he would never have taken up arms. The war was all about slavery as the Southern leaders, at the beginning of the Civil War, candidly admitted. To deny this simple truth is to deny the historical record.

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