Now, gentlemen, notwithstanding these facts I have endeavored to group before you–notwithstanding this labor, this long-suffering, this patience I have endeavored to show you she has practiced–throughout this whole land, over all Christendom, my State has been accused of “rash precipitancy.” Is it rash precipitancy to step out of the pathway when you hear the thunder-crash of the falling avalanche? Is it rash precipitancy to seek for shelter when you hear the hissing of the coming tempest, and see the storm-cloud close down upon you? Is it rash precipitancy to raise your hands to protect your heart?
I venture to assert, that never, since liberty came into the institutions of man, have a people borne with more patience, or forborne with more fortitude, than have the people of these Southern States in their relations with their confederates. As long as it was merely silly fanaticism or prurient philanthropy which proposed our destruction, we did nothing–scarcely complained. Even when partial and most oppressive taxation, continued for years, ground us into the dust of poverty, save for a moment of convulsive struggle, we bore it patiently; even when many of our confederates, by State and municipal regulations, violated provisions of our compact vital to us, and hordes of their people, under the sanction of these regulations, robbed our property and murdered our citizens; even when, under the same sanction, bands of wild fanatics invaded slave States, and proclaimed the destruction of slavery by the annihilation of the slaveholder, and States and cities erected shrines to the memory of the felons; when one confederate demanded that we must be driven from the civilization of the age in which we live, and another sent its chief representative to defame us before the civilized world; beneath all these enormities, we continued to give our blood, our gold and our sweat to build up the grandeur and maintain the power of that Republic. And when there was added to this all that baffled avarice, malignant fanaticism and moral turpitude could devise to vilify, wrong and irritate us, we still gave our blood and treasure, and offered our hands, and called them brethren. I draw no fancy picture, I use no declamatory assertions.
There is not a man in this Convention who may not cite twenty cases to meet every item of this catalogue. But when, at last, this fanaticism and eager haste for rapine, mingling their foul purposes, engendered those fermenting millions who have seized the Constitution and distorted its most sacred form into an instrument of our ruin, why then longer submission seemed to us not only base cowardice, but absolute fatuity. In South Carolina we felt that, to remain one hour under such a domination, we would merit the destruction earned by our own folly and baseness. We felt that if there was one son of a Carolina sire who would counsel such submission, there was not a hill-side or a plain, from Eutaw to the Cowpens, from which the spirit of his offended sire would not start forth to shame him from the land he desecrated. We did not find air enough in that little State to give breath to such counsel; there was not firm earth enough there for one such counsellor to stand upon.
— Address of Hon. John S. Preston, Commissioner from South Carolina, to the Convention of Virginia, 19 February 1861.