March 25, 1861
Another speech of Vice President Stephens.
|Confederate Vice President|
(Library of Congress)
He contrasted the strength of the Confederate States with that of the Colonies at the time of their struggle for independence, and showed that we had more territory, more wealth, and more men than our fathers had when they asserted and maintained their independence. Our perfect system of government would attract the border slave States, and we would soon have more States, but even if they choose to stay where they are in the old Union, we still had territory enough for an empire — more than twice as much as some of the most powerful nations in Europe, with a soil and climate and productions superior to any in the world. With a good government and a brave, virtuous and intelligent people, we had nothing to fear. With less public debt than the Northern States, we have greater resources, and were better able to sustain an independent Government.
If we were true to ourselves, a brilliant future was before us — our Confederacy was destined to become the nucleus of a great controlling power on this continent. Our policy was peace with all nations — with our late confederates and the rest of the world. The olive branch was the emblem of peace. In lieu of it we presented the cotton plant. He had been frequently asked whether our revolution could be consummated without war.
He had thought at one time that war was inevitable. But, he would say, that of late the prospect was less threatening. The North had nothing to gain by war, and the adoption of a war, instead of a peace policy, on their part, could only be accounted for on the hypothesis that "those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad." To talk of coercion was simply absurd — it was an impossibility. He thought when the Northern States come to count the cost of the attempt — for it could only be an attempt — they would, like the man who was practicing to fight a duel by shooting with a musket at the size of a man marked out on a barn door, and who, when he found he had put some fourteen shot in the mark, came to the conclusion that the weapon was too destructive, and that he would not fight. He thought the North when it came to contemplate the consequences would wisely conclude that coercion would be too destructive. There was no necessity for war.
The old Union was a contract between the States, and it was a principle of law that civil contracts can be annulled by mutual consent of the parties. Therefore all the present United States Congress had to do was simply to consent that the contract with the seceded States be annulled and settle matters amicably. But while the prospect of collision was not so unfavorable as it had been, it was well for us to be prepared with stout hearts and strong arms to meet any emergency. Until our revolution is consummated and our new Government firmly established, it is proper that we should be well prepared. It was for this that in arranging the tariff higher duties had been assessed than would ordinarily be necessary for the support of the Government. We wanted armaments and men, and to provide the means higher duties had been laid. In time of peace an average of ten per cent. on our imports would give us fifteen millions of dollars, ample for all purposes of government. The future was before us; whether it was to be peace or war, depended on others. He would only say let us be prepared — let us keep our armor bright and our powder dry.