Timeline of Events

Kansas Troubles

Having brought this history down to a period immediately preceding Secession and the war following, it becomes necessary to write of the events leading to that decisive act, an act the most momentous in the history of the world since the advent of Christ.

The student of United States history does not need to be informed that from the very beginning the union between the States was not altogether as cordial as it might have been. Absolute cordiality was wanting long before the Republican-Abolition party came into being, long before the lawfulness of the institution of slavery was called in question by any person in any part of the country. There were extreme State Rights men at the first before the Constitution was adopted and the Union formed. Of these the leaders were Jefferson and Patrick Henry in Virginia, and we have already seen that some of the ablest men in South Carolina voted against the adoption of the Constitution, because it took away from the States and gave to the central government too much power. There were also extreme Centralists, or Federalists, as they were then called, at the first. Conspicuous amongst these were Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. Washington, himself, belonged to that party. These conflicting views resulted in a compromise out of which was born theFederal Constitution, as it was when it became part of the organic law of the States. Union of some sort, and a closer union than was made by the old Articles of Confederation, was found to be absolutely necessary, if the States continued to live under one general government. So the Constitution was adopted as a compromise between conflicting views and opinions. It never was entirely satisfactory to anybody. But something had to be done, or chaos would come again. It is due to truth to say that this great instrument, the result of the deliberations of the wisest men of the country and of the age, was only a compromise of conflicting views and wishes to prevent other and greater evil. And like all other compromises, it was not able to stand the day of extreme trial and pressure. Long ago a writer in Harper's Monthly or Weekly said that all written constitutions become mere waste paper when they stand in the way of the advance or evolution of great ideas. In our country the seeds of discord existed in the minds, habits, and modes of thought and life of the people of the different sections, even from the first. Owing to a difference of the produce of the lands, and the means by which those lands were cultivated, the men of the South were naturally more baronial and lordly in their manner and habits. They were also better statesmen, and their influence predominated for many years in the councils of the nation, during the War of the Revolution, before the adoption of the Constitution, and for many years following the adoption. Mr. Jefferson, the greatest statesman this country has ever produced, seemed to care but little for the nation, but took great pride and glory in the freedom and independence of the States. His policy ruled for many years, and the influence of Southern statesmen was paramount, until, I am forced to believe, a deep-seated feeling of hatred for the South and the Southern people grew out of, supplanted, and took the place of that of jealousy, which had existed from the first in the minds of the leaders of Northern thought. The dislike found full expression and hearty satisfaction in the formation of the Abolition and Free Soil parties.

The Abolition party, pure and simple, was almost a dead failure. Its leaders were not wise. They aimed at that which, it was too plainly manifest, was entirely beyond their jurisdiction to meddle with, and out of their power to accomplish in a direct mode of attack. The feeling of the Abolition party at last became embodied in, and found triumphant expression through the Free Soil party. The life and animating spirit of that party was to prevent the admission of any more States holding slaves into the Union. This, it was very easy to persuade themselves, that they had a right to do legally under the Constitution. Their standpoint was that all the territorial soil then belonged to the United States, or henceforth to be acquired by them, shall be owned by free men, and shall be cultivated by free men only. No more extension of slavery into the free territory of the United States. No more slave States.

The hatred and bitter feeling engendered and fostered by the discussion of this subject, in and out of Congress, continued for many years, and grew and increased in intensity, until at last they were quenced in blood - if they have been quenched. After many years of weary and bitter agitation the so-called compromise measures on the admission of Missouri were introduced and passed. Mr. Clay, of Kentucky, aided by his great influence in having Missouri admitted as a slave State, but the proviso that thereafter no State holding slaves should be admitted North of 36 degrees 30', whichwas the Northern boundary of that State. Missouri was admitted in the year 1821.

For years the discussion on the restriction of slavery had been very bitter. The Missouri Compromise did not stop the discussion nor the strife, though the tariff question for a time held the attention of the people and kept their feelings at white heat. That agitation reached its climax in South Carolina when the Convention of the Pople of the State, on the 17th of December, 1832, passed an ordinance nullifying the tariff laws of Congress. Again compromise measures were resorted to which stilled the agitation and averted a conflict. Jackson was then President and would have made short work with the job of suppressing nullification in South Carolina, if Congress had not taken speedy action.

In the meantime the discussion of the slavery question never ceased. This writer is no longer a young man, having been born in 1821, the year of the admission of Missouri into the Union; and, looking back over a somewhat long life, he does not remember the time when the country had a calm and settled peace with any prospect of long cintuance. Nullification, the Seminole War, the threatened War with France about the same time, the War with Mexico, the continued agitation of the slavery question, Secession, the War of Secession, the terrible period of reconstruction, and now the great danger of plutocracy grasping and swallowing into its voracious and capacious maw all the liberties and possessions of the toiling people, through the operation of the tariff and land monopolies, with the discussions of other great questions, all show that the end is not yet, and that a calm and enduring peace is not to be found in a world where moral evil has its fixed seat and firm abiding place. The suppression of evil, without its eradication, is only intruducing order into hell.

The compromise on the tariff settled nothing. The protective tariff continued and became the settled policy of the country, in spite of the fact that in its very nature it is robbery. The agitation of the slavery question continued, and was intensified whenever a new State applied for admission. By the War with Mexico, to which Mr. Calhoun was opposed, because he saw with clear vision that territory would be acquired, and that the States would quarrel over it, like a parcel of hungry dogs over a bone, a large quantity of territory, many millions of miles in extent, was added to the landed domain of the Union, and the question immediately arose whether any of that territory should be made into slave States. A few years after the close of that war the act of 1850 was passed, by which the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was repealed, and the whole territorial domain of the United States was thrown open to settlers from all the States; and they were permitted to carry their property of all kinds, slaves as well as others, into any territory wherever they might choose to go or settle; and when the time arrived for the formation of State Constitutions the people might allow or prohibit slavery as they chose. This was a measure of Mr. Clay's, and it made him more popular than he ever had been before. It was thought to have been the crowning and most glorious act of his life. He hoped, the people hoped, and the whole country hoped for a long-continued peace, and that an era of good feeling and of good will had come to stay. Mr. Clay did not live long enough to see the dissipation of these hopes. He died in the fullness of his fame, and content.

For a little while, a very little while, these hopes seemed likely to be realized. They were soon dispelled. They were, indeed, a dream baseless and insubstantial. The very fact that all the territories, North and South, without regard to degrees of latitude, were open to all settlers alike, very soon roused in the minds of the people of the different parties, pro and anti slavery, the intense and inextinguishable desire to fill up the new domains, each with settlers of its own sort. The fires of sectional strife soon raged hotter and fiercer than ever. Emigrant aid societies were formed North, in which Bibles and rifles played a prominent part. They were also formed in the South, in which pistols, perhaps, played a more prominent part than either Bibles or rifles.

Kansas became the first battle ground for settlers from the opposing parties. Indeed it was there that the great Civil War began. It was there that the celebrated John Brown, who was afterwards hanged for his armed invasion of Virginia and his attempt to excite an insurrection in that State, first became conspicuous as a public character, and whose soul is said to be still marching on. May God in His mercy soon give it rest. Kansas became the first battle ground, because it was the first territory to apply for admission as a State under the new order of things. Emigration societies were formed all over the Union for the purpose of aiding settlers to gain a foothold in that new region in order to shape its future character and destiny as a pro or anti slavery State.

Edgefield was not backward in this work. Edgefield is never backward when live men are wanted to push on any work. The District did its part, but how many went to Kansas, and how many, if any, became actual settlers, my information on this point is too defective to allow me to speak with certainty. It was in Kansas that the great Civil War began, but that territory was not admitted as a State until after Secession was an accomplished fact.

The two great parties that then divided the people of the United States, as they yet divide them, were known as the Democratic and the Republican; the one State rights, believing in the Strict construction of the Constitution; the other national in character, in all its proclivities, doctrines, and tendencies. By a strange infatuation, which can in no otherwise be accounted for than by the old saying that whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad, the Democratic party, which had a majority, both of the people and the States, instead of uniting their forces upon one man for President and one for Vice-President, had three sets of candidates in the field at the election in 1860, and the result of the contest was, of course, the election of Mr. Lincoln, the Republican candidate. But, even had the Democratic party at that election succeeded in electing, both President and Vice-President, as they might have done if they had had only one set of candidates, it would only have prolonged the struggle without, in the end, producing a different result.

REF: History of Edgefield. Chapman, pgs. 208-214

The Civil War in South Carolina