The Charleston Mercury Defends the Fight for Slavery…in 1865

Screen shot 2014-02-27 at 11.05.20 AMI run across people all the time who try to convince me that the Confederacy was not established to preserve the institution of slavery. Of course I think that is nonsense – so I figured that from time to time I would a post tidbit of primary evidence to illustrate exactly how slavery was the driving force behind secession and war.

So here is a succinct, straight to the point newspaper article. Now I know that one article does not prove an argument. So stay tuned – I will give you lots and lots. This article  from an 1865 edition of the Charleston Mercury – the day is unknown but it seems like the CSA is very close to the end – is a good place to start. Sorry, no picture of the actual article – so I posted and old page of the Mercury announcing the ordinance of secession.

Pay special attention. The author notes slavery explicitly as the cause of the war and the reason to maintain the fight…despite the severe losses endured by the South. Further, alluding to the proposition that blacks be enlisted to fight for the Confederacy, the Mercury takes a firm stand against arming black people. It would only lead to emancipation, notes the author – thus rendering their secession pointless.

I have quoted the article below in full (in italics). Please note that when I quote primary evidence I leave the language, grammar, and spelling exactly as written. I do NOT sanitize for your protection. Therefore, some of you may be offended by the choice of words. Rest assured, these are the words of the AUTHOR OF THE MERCURY, not mine.

In 1860 South Carolina seceded alone from the old union of States. Her people, in Convention assembled, invited the slaveholding States (none others) of the old Union to join her in erecting a separate Government of Slave States, for the protection of their common interests. All of the slave states, with the exception of Maryland and Kentucky, responded to her invitation. The Southern Confederacy of slave States was formed.

It was on account of encroachments upon the institution of slavery by the sectional majority of the old Union, that South Carolina seceded from that Union. It is not at this late day, after the loss of thirty thousand of her best and bravest men in battle, that she will suffer it to be bartered away; or ground between the upper and nether mill stones, by the madness of Congress, or the counsels of shallow men elsewhere.

By the compact we made with Virginia and the other States of this Confederacy, South Carolina will stand to the bitter end of destruction. By that compact she intends to stand or to fall. Neither Congress, nor certain makeshift men in Virginia, can force upon her their mad schemes of weakness and surrender. She stands upon her institutions—and there she will fall in their defense. We want no Confederate Government without our institutions. And we will have none. Sink or swim, live or die, we stand by them, and are fighting for them this day. That is the ground of our fight—it is well that all should understand it at once. Thousands and tens of thousands of the bravest men, and the best blood of this State, fighting in the ranks, have left their bones whitening on the bleak hills of Virginia in this cause. We are fighting for our system of civilization—not for buncomb, or for Jeff Davis. We intend to fight for that, or nothing. We expect Virginia to stand beside us in that fight, as of old, as we have stood beside her in this war up to this time. But such talk coming from such a source is destructive to the cause. Let it cease at once, in God’s name, and in behalf of our common cause! It is paralizing to every man here to hear it. It throws a pall over the hearts of the soldiers from this State to hear it. The soldiers of South Carolina will not fight beside a nigger’ to talk of emancipation is to disband our army. We are free men, and we chose to fight for ourselves—we want no slaves to fight for us…. Hack at the root of the Confederacy—our institutions—our civilization—and you kill the cause as dead as a boiled crab.

So….there you go. Not enough, you say? Stick around – there is much much much more to come.

With compliments,


6 thoughts on “The Charleston Mercury Defends the Fight for Slavery…in 1865”

  1. HI Keith; Nice find and I look forward to more. You do realize it will not be enough for the “slavery was not the cause of the war” clan (pun intended). I and many others have directed regular posters on several blogs to the original secession documents as evidence of their folly. But time and time again they return with the same old tripe – tariffs, states rights, etc. They have their view of the war and are just not educable..

    1. Thanks for the note, RE – yes…I know it’s difficult to argue with a glazed over new-Confederate. But I will offer the evidence just the same. It may help enlighten those who have heard both sides and are looking for answers. Contemporary evidence is hard to deny!(though many try).

  2. That article from “Charleston Mercury” is from Jan. 13, 1865. It can be read in the original newspaper image available on Google’s News Archive:

    (Note that slightly more than a month later, the Stars and Stripes flew over the Charleston once more and the Mercury fell silent.)

  3. Sorry for the “testing” post,, wasn’t sure I could get through or not.

    Utilizing the same simple method of finding evidence why the Civil War was fought & as you offer as illustration,, articles of the past written by war weary journalists whose patriotic & egotistical leanings wouldn’t allow them to relinquish their feelings of why the war should or shouldn’t continue,, the true basis of resentments & concrete evidence of reasoning for war occurred long before this mere article written in hindsight of “The Charleston Mercury’s” particular present portrayal.

    Without consideration of my vast viewpoints on this topic,, I’ll simply suggest you read this forwarding article of actual debate on the floor of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where the final draft proposal of our newly formed Federation/Republic was being hammered out through endless debate & hopeful consensus to articulate a binding Constitution “for all states” with full consideration/regard toward the relevance of “states’ rights” as monumental individually & regionally. The mentioned debate between George Mason of Va. vs. John Rutledge of S. Carolina outlining the forwarding mindset (& resentments) as a precursor to the Dred Scott Decision & ultimately the 13th amendment itself overruling Dred Scott.

    The article I’m implying is found on the “exploring Constitutional Conflicts” with this particular title “The Thirteenth Amendment: The Abolition of Slavery”

    The article presents a great understanding of the clearly understood & hotly contested topic of slavery almost an entire century before we came to conflict over it. I’m sure you’re aware of this entire reading being a historian yourself but it’s confusing to me why you & those of your mindset somewhat refuse to view the larger picture within all of this realizing slavery was indeed the crux (or simply one major reason) of the argument between slave holding states vs. those favoring freedoms,, yet it was not the crux or axis of “the principle of the argument” of which it clearly fell within.

    Secondarily,, the early ideal of “secularism” ironically with the not duly coined at that time,, “Bible Belt South” carrying the thought Mason’s argument (a very Christian one) was invalid whereas John Rutledge representing the deep south slave states argued “”religion and humanity have nothing to do with the question “of whether the Constitution should protect slavery–it was simply a question of property rights”. “Property rights” being a question & issue of “individual states alone” having nothing to do with the federal gov’t especially with the initial acceptance of slavery by all states suddenly beginning to have a change of heart by some. I would also forward you to the rulings of King George/3rd when our own councilmen (Va.) couldn’t ascertain a moral ruling of their own turning to England (1770) for guidance on the matter. Slave holding colonies’ viewpoints were shifting toward slavery as a “pernicious commerce” which they by & large were intent on ridding themselves of but instead became far more mainstream by the wishes of George himself,, not the southern colonies of that time necessarily intent of it being.

    Mason in response to Rutledge & representing free states on the other hand spoke of slavery being an act of tyranny & I quote “They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.  As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this.  By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins by national calamities.” Mason was arguing the virtue & providence of God Himself would punish us for our misdeeds. Fast forward today where the north contends the ignorance of the South’s adherence to religious stance (again,, the Bible Belt) is in violation of our Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as though we solely created the concept. This is merely an observation of our changing viewpoints in our short lived history while more or less uncovering the hypocrisy of our nation’s political left & their growing hatred toward the Christian conservative right. There was a time “Godliness” was a national virtue,, not one compartmentalized by political expedience.

    As a separate issue,, these gentlemen being our forefathers,, how is it argued today “Christianity” itself is or was not a viable aspect of how our laws were considered & thought out with such undeniable quotations of the past as absolute proof positive we were founded upon Godly & strong Christian principles? Historical archives are full of equal proof religion (specifically Christianity) played a continued role in the conscience of our forefathers. I indeed digress however,, apologies,, I just find it interesting & compelling at the same time irrefutable evidence existed yet many act as though these great men acted out totally devoid of any alternative reasoning.

    Again,, I rest my case our greatest internal conflict was undeniably etched in stone due to a federal overarching authority leading to resentments of that reach,, not slavery itself.

    Realizing how old this thread is,, no reply necessary. I merely put this out there so others reading later on might ponder our folly then as a nation,, much like we see the beginnings of today,, “resentments” individually & by our federal gov’t only appeasing their half of the scenario.

    *Forgive my thought structure,, I added & deleted as thought came to mind but I’ll compliment you’re smart enough to put it all together..

    1. Allow me to thank you for this comment. I would however like to ask you this, as I do all of those who stand behind the well-worn state rights argument: what rights, specifically, did the seceding states want to protect?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *