A Georgian lawyer’s remarks prior to the Civil War

“The world can never give up slavery”

Photograph portrait of Benjamin Harvey Hill taken between 1870 and 1880, possibly after being elected to Congress. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.
Filed under History, US Civil War

Excerpts from a speech made by Georgian lawyer Benjamin Harvey Hill at the state capital on 1860.11.15, arguing for military prudence in secession prior to the start of the US Civil War.

Hill was elected to House of Representatives in 1874, and to the Senate in 1877, serving until his death in 1882. You can find more such primary source material in the volume, The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It.

“[England] must have cotton. Four millions of her people can’t live without it. The English throne can’t stand without it. It must come from the Southern States. It can’t be raised in the South without slave labour. And England has become the defender of slavery in the South.

“In our early history the Southern statesmen were anti-slavery in feeling. So were Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, and many of that day, who had never studied the argument of the cotton gin, nor heard the eloquent productions of the great Mississippi Valley. Now our people not only see the justice of slavery, but its providence too. The world can never give up slavery until it is willing to give up clothing and food. The South is a magnificent exemplification of the highest Christian excellence. She is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, blessing them that curse her, and doing good to them that despitefully use and persecute her.

“If we secede now, in what condition are we? Our secession will either be peaceable or otherwise. If peaceable, we have no ships to take off our produce. We could not get and would not have those of the government from which we had just seceded. We have no treaties, commercial or otherwise, with any other power. We have no postal system among our people. Nor are we prepared to meet any one of the hundred inconveniences that must follow…”