Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Position of Kentucky, Early 1861: Two Contemporary Views

The American Interest's The Long Recall blog blog has an entry regarding The Position of Kentucky, or at least what the Louisville Democrat believed that position to be on February 8 of 1861.  It's a good read, including some comments about the importance of slavery to the state.

This was not the only newspaper that opined on Kentucky and how this state felt about then-current events. The Covington Journal, from the northernmost section of Kentucky, and also in a city bordering the Ohio River like its Louisville counterpart, had some longer thoughts on this topic in its January 19 edition.

It is interesting that both start out by avowing Kentucky's interest in the Union, but then quickly turn towards the states loyalties to slavery or to "Southern States." The Journal is quite a bit more emphatic in showing which side of the controversy it supports. 

The Position of Kentucky
The unwavering devotion of the people of Kentucky to the Union is this day signally attested by their unwillingness to believe that any thing has occurred or can occur to force them into a new position or change their Federal obligations. This state of things cannot last long. We must sooner or later recognize established facts and accept the weighty responsibilities they create. We may iterate and reiterate Jackson's patriotic declaration - "The Union must and shall be preserved;" we may resolve and re-resolve that we will stick to the Union "at all hazards and under all circumstances," and yet the stubborn facts are not changed - the march of startling events is not arrested.

The North* shows no signs of compromise or concession, but instead is arming its people manifestly for the purpose of coercing the South. For Southern States, in vindication of what they conceive their honor and their rights, have gone out of the Union; other Southern States are making preparations to go out. The Union formed by our Fathers no longer exists. Deplorable as we may regard these movements they cannot be ignored nor ought their importance to be underrated.

We repeat, it is our duty to look the facts in the face. We of Kentucky are not responsible for them. We may deplore their existence. Nevertheless, they are facts, and every consideration demands of us that we should deal with them as such.

In this condition of affairs, with the pillars of the temple falling around her and events affecting her dearest interests crowding upon her, Kentucky cannot long remain indifferent or inactive. She will speedily be compelled to take a position and make her voice heard. Her Legislature is now in session, and may to some extent speak for her people. Kentucky is for the enforcement of the laws; she would promptly give her aid in crushing out Insurrection or Rebellion. But we hold that it is insane folly to treat the Southern movement as a Rebellion. Already beyond the control of the Federal Government, every day is adding to its importance, its magnitude, its invincibility. It is REVOLUTION, and must be regarded and treated as such.

Entertaining these views, we think the Legislature of Kentucky ought to do four things:

1. Propose, as the ultimatum of the State, a national convention for amending the Constitution on the basis of Mr. Crittenden's plan.

2. Enter a form protest against the force by the Federal authorities, as not only impracticable but as  cutting off all hopes of a reconstruction of the Union.

3. Prohibit Northern troops from crossing our borders to subjugate a Southern State.

4. Call a Convention of the people to determine all questions that lie beyond the foregoing, and especially to determine what course the State will take in the event that all efforts to adjust the controversy with the North upon just and honorable terms shall fail.

*We mean, of course, the dominant party of the North, and its representative men.

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