Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kentucky Legislature Resolutions, February 1861

After seeing an interesting post at Robert Moore's Cenantua's Blog describing some articles he found in newspapers, I thought his idea sounded really interesting, so I will be trying to add some coverage from the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati newspapers in early 1861 before the war came.

One newspaper, the Covington Journal is available online through the Kenton County Public Library's website, so I will certainly be taking advantage of it quite frequently. I hope also to make some return visits to the library to do some microfilm searches of the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer and Cincinnati Daily Commercial, though I realize that time constraints may not let me do that as frequently as I would like.

Still, I think it will be interesting to see what the newspapers thought was worthy of printing and commentary in the early part of 1861, when peace still prevailed in the midst of so much uncertainty, with talk of secession and the changing of hands of the US Presidency. Will any of these newspapers show a preference for any side of these issues? Will the paper printed in Kentucky be significantly different than the ones across the river?


I start today with information from the Covington Journal of February 9, 1861. It was a weekly newspaper, so each edition contained many articles. This particular edition has a couple interesting stories in it, including one very long commentary of the situation regarding slavery, but the article I will discuss today is a "report of the Select Committee on Federal Relations" from the state legislature.

Reading this report, it's almost like a "close the barn door after the horse is out" situation. Much of that is based on hindsight available now, of course, but this same issue carries an article declaring Texas's decision to secede (awaiting a vote of the people for confirmation), along with plans from Arkansas to vote on whether or not to have a secession convention. This all, of course, is after several states had already declared their departure from the Union.

This report asks both the southern states and the Federal Government to back off their plans or potential plans and try to come up with a compromise to preserve the Union. It does read like a document from a state that wanted to try to please both sides.

Here is the text of this report.

Resolved, by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, That the people of Kentucky view with the most lively apprehension the dangers that now environ the Union and threaten its perpetuity.

Resolved, That we appeal to our Southern brethren to stay the work of revolution; to return and make one mighty effort to perpetuate the noble work of our forefathers, hallowed by the recollections of a thousand noble deeds. 

Resolved, That we protest against the use of force or coercion by the General Government against the seceding States, as unwise and inexpedient, and tending to the destruction of our common country.

Resolved, That as this General Assembly has made an application to Congress to call a National Convention to amend the Constitution of the United States, and requested the Legislatures of all other States to make similar applications, and has appointed commissioners to meet those which have been appointed by the State of Virginia, and such as may be appointed by other States, at a designated time and place to consider and, if practicable, agree upon some suitable adjustment of the present unhappy controversies, it is unnecessary and inexpedient for this Legislature to take any further action on this subject at the present time. And as evidence of the sincerity and good faith of our propositions for an adjustment, and an expression of devotion to the Union and desire for its preservation, Kentucky awaits with deep solicitude the response from her sister States.

The final resolution then schedules its next meeting and lists the members of this committee, one of whom was L. H. Rousseau, a future Union general. Another member was Thornton F Marshall, a Democrat whose vote was the deciding one in Kentucky's decision to declare neutrality at the beginning of the Civil War. (See also page 580 of the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky)

This newspaper followed up this report with comments from a pair of Kentucky Senators. I will review those comments in a future entry.

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