Incalculable Misery

Manuscript certificate of Governor Joel Parker's oath of office, 20 January 1863.
Manuscript certificate of Governor Joel Parker’s oath of office, 20 January 1863.

If the abolition of slavery be a necessary consequence of the war, both races will have to endure the evils which, in their present condition, it would bring on them, but to make emancipation the object of the war would be to use the treasure and blood of the country to carry out the political views which, to a great extent, produced the war; would be in bad faith to the nation, and especially to those who have freely given of their wealth, and voluntarily offered their lives to the Government, after that Government had, of its own accord, put on record that the war was not to be prosecuted for the purpose of “overthrowing the established institutions of the States.”

Our energies should be devoted to a restoration of the Union, and the problem of emancipation is one to be solved hereafter by the people of the States where the institution of slavery exists. To be a benefit even to the people in servitude, it should not come by fire and sword. The institutions of ages, interwoven with society, cannot thus be broken up without producing incalculable misery. If emancipation should ever come, it will come so as to be of the greatest benefit to both races. It will come, as it did in New Jersey, by the voluntary action of the people of the States where the institution exists, peacefully and gradually, and without the dictation or interference of the General Government or the governments of other States, and without calling on the other States to incur an immense debt, equivalent to a mortgage on every acre of land within their limits.

The project of emancipation, we fear, will prolong the war. Whether intended or not, like the unconstitutional creation of new States, it will have the effect of placing an obstacle in the way of the restoration of the Union; the great object for which we should contend.

We are told that the belief that slavery is the cause of the war, and that the war can never cease and the life of the nation be preserved, until slavery be abolished, has led to a departure from the original purpose of the war. This is the radical error of the emancipationists. Slavery is no more the cause of the war than gold is the cause of robbery or murder. With the same propriety it might be said that commerce was the cause of our last war with Great Britain, and that commerce should be abolished, because the impressment of American seamen led to the collision. In all these cases the evil passions of men, taking the form of illegal action, were the antecedent cause. If men will reform themselves, keep within the law, and observe constitutional requirements, there is no reason why we should not live together as harmoniously as our ancestors did in the earlier days of the Republic. Abolition and Secession are the authors of our calamity, and Abolition is the parent of Secession.

To those who regarded slavery as a sin, and were impelled by a law which they esteem higher than the Constitution, to effect emancipation at all hazards, it would be useless to say anything, except that they were no more responsible for the evils incident to slavery in the Southern States, than they were responsible for serfdom in the most distant country in Europe. They had about as much right to interfere in the one case as in the other. Slavery was here when the Constitution was formed. Its introduction was not the work of one section alone. The great and good men of that day, in framing the Constitution, recognized it as an existing institution. Its control was wisely left to the several States in which it existed. Without this the Constitution never would have been ratified. Of this class of men (who often neglect evils at home, and interfere where they have no legal right,) my predecessor, in the message before referred to, wisely remarked—”We give some of them credit for sincerity; but if so sensitive to wickedness, they will find enough to exercise their time and talents within the bounds of their own State, and probably within a narrower circle.”

— Inaugural Address of Joel Parker, Governor of New Jersey, 20 January 1863.

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

Leave a Reply