Four state secession conventions issued “declarations of causes.”
A fifth such document was prepared by the Florida secession convention but never formally published. It was recently discovered by Dr. Dwight Pitcaithley, former chief historian of the National Park Service and currently professor of history at New Mexico State University. (Causes of the Civil War – James F. Epperson)
(Florida Declaration of Causes1)
The people of the State of Florida assembled in Convention having declared the separation of the state from the confederacy of the United States of America and resumed all the powers granted to the Government of that Confederacy, it is due to ourselves to our – late – confederates and to the civilized world that we should set forth the causes which have forced us to adopt this extreme measure fraught as it is with consequences the most momentous. We have not acted in haste or in passion but with the utmost deliberation and from what we regard as immeasurable necessity.
An incursion has been instigated and actually perpetuated into a sister State the inevitable consequences of which were murder rapine and crimes even more horrible. The felon chief of that murderous band has been canonized as a heroic martyr by public meetings by the press and pulpit of all of the Northern States – others of the party have been demanded by the Governor of the State they invaded and their surrender refused by the Governors of two States of the Confederacy, demanded not as fugitives from service but as fugitives from justice charged with treason and murder.
Laws clearly constitutional and as decided to be by the Federal Judiciary as well as by the Courts of all the non slaveholding States where the question has been presented for adjudication have been by counter legislation rendered inoperative, laws without the power to pass which none will deny that the Constitution would not have been adopted.
The nullification of these laws by the Legislatures of two thirds of the non slaveholding States important as it is in itself is additionally as is furnishing evidence of an open disregard of constitutional obligation, and of the rights and interests of the slaveholding States and of a deep and inveterate hostility to the people of these States.
The Congressional halls where the members should meet with fraternal feelings, a just regard for the interests of all the States there represented and respect for the feelings of all its members has been prostituted to the daily denunciation and vituperation of the slave holding States as sanctioning oppression robbery and all villainies, thus subjecting the members from these States to the degradation of gross and constantly repeated insults, and compelling the exclusion from our public press of the debates of our national Legislature or the circulation of the most incendiary matter.
By the agency of a large proportion of the members from the non slaveholding States books have been published and circulated amongst us the direct tendency and avowed purpose of which is to excite insurrection and servile war with all their attendant horrors. A President has recently been elected, an obscure and illiterate man without experience in public affairs or any general reputation mainly if not exclusively on account of a settled and often proclaimed hostility to our institutions and a fixed purpose to abolish them. It is denied that it is the purpose of the party soon to enter into the possession of the powers of the Federal Government to abolish slavery by any direct legislative act. This has never been charged by any one. But it has been announced by all the leading men and presses of the party that the ultimate accomplishment of this result is its settled purpose and great central principle. That no more slave States shall be admitted into the confederacy and that the slaves from their rapid increase (the highest evidence of the humanity of their owners will become value less. Nothing is more certain than this and at no distant day. What must be the condition of the slaves themselves when their number becomes so large that their labor will be of no value to their owners. Their natural tendency every where shown where the race has existed to idleness vagrancy and crime increased by an inability to procure subsistence. Can any thing be more impudently false than the pretense that this state of things is to be brought about from considerations of humanity to the slaves.
It is in so many words saying to you we will not burn you at the stake but we will torture you to death by a slow fire we will not confiscate your property and consign you to a residence and equality with the african but that destiny certainly awaits your children – and you must quietly submit or we will force you to submission – men who can hesitate to resist such aggressions are slaves already and deserve their destiny. The members of the Republican party has denied that the party will oppose the admission of any new state where slavery shall be tolerated. But on the contrary they declare that on this point they will make no concession or compromise. It is manifest that they will not because to do so would be the dissolution of the party.
Additional territory is generally only acquired by conquest or purchase. In either case the slaveholding States contribute at least this equal proportion of men or money – we think much more than an equal proportion. The revenues of the General Government are almost entirely derived from duties on importations. It is time that the northern consumer pays his proportion of these duties, but the North as a section receiving back in the increased prices of the rival articles which it manufactures nearly or quite as much as the imposts which it pays thus in effect paying nothing or very little for the support of the government. As to the sacrifice of lives which recent acquisitions have caused how small is the proportion of Northern blood shed or laurels won in the Mexican war.
Last and not least it has been proclaimed that the election of a President is an authoritative approval of all the principles avowed by the person elected and by the party convention which nominated him. Although that election is made by little more than one third of the votes given. But however large the majority may have been to recognize such a principle is to announce a revolution in the government and to substitute an aggregate popular majority for the written constitution without which no single state would have voted its adoption not forming in truth a federal union but a consolidated despotism that worst of despotisms that of an unrestricted sectional and hostile majority, we do not intend to be misunderstood, we do not controvert the right of a majority to govern within the grant of powers in the Constitution.
The representative principle is a sufficient security only where the interest of the representative and the Constituent are identical with the variety of climate productions and employment of labor and capital which exist in the different sections of the American Confederacy creating interests not only diverse but antagonistic.
The majority section may legislate imperiously and ruinously to the interests of the minority section not only without injury but to great benefit and advantage of their own section. In proof of this we need only refer to the fishing bounties, the monopoly of the coast navigation which is possessed almost exclusively by the Northern States and in one word the bounties to every employment of northern labor and capital such a government must in the nature of things and the universal principles of human nature and human conduct very soon lead as it has done to a grinding and degrading despotism.
It is in no weak and imaginary fear of the consequences but that we regard them as certain and inevitable that we are prompted by every consideration of duty and honor and of policy to meet the issue now instead of leaving it to those who are to come after us who will be less able to vindicate their rights and honor, nor is it without the sincerest sorrow that we are about to separate from that noble band of patriots in the nonslaveholding states who have faithfully vindicated our Constitutional rights that we have been impelled by every consideration which should have influence with honorable men to declare our separation from the confederacy of the United States of America trusting for the maintenance of that declaration to the virtue courage and patriotism of our people and to that God who guided our fathers through similar trials and dangers.
1. Florida Declaration of Causes, (undated and untitled) State Archives of Florida, Series 577, Carton 1, Folder 6,
“Gov. Madison Starke Perry – Constitutional Convention 1861″ (Causes of the Civil War web site– James F. Epperson)