Having lived in this State for more than twenty years and being familiar with the opinions of its people, and understanding what have been their feelings, I desire to secure as charitable a judgment as possible of the conduct of those of my fellow citizens, who, driven by what they consider as outrages upon the liberties of the people and the authority of the State have taken up arms against the United States. Also had there been more charity in judgment among the people of the different sections of this country secession, rebellion and civil war would never have reared their horrid fronts in what was once the land of law.
It is to ask this charity in judgment-that sympathy which a father should feel while compelled to punish a disobedient son that law and order may prevail in his family-that I address you this letter. Permit me to make a few suggestions which I think capable of proof before any court of justice in which law is the rule of judgment, or to any fairminded man.
Secession has never been one of the political heresies of this State. Its legality has always been denied by the Democracy; it was always considered rank heresy by the old Whig party and by its successor, the Bell and Everett party, and the Breckinridge wing of the Democracy in the canvass of last year always denied that they held to the doctrine. The Presidential canvass of 1860 showed this to be the state of parties: Lincoln, 17,028 confined almost entirely to Saint Louis Gasconade and Cole and one or two other counties-chiefly a German vote; Bell, 58,372, Breckinridge, 31,319; Douglas, 58,801; total, 165,518. One of the main arguments used against the Breckinridge party in the discussion was that the breaking of the party tended to a dissolution of the Union. We did not think how near to the abyss we were standing.
During the session of the legislature finding what was its temper I was anxious in urging my friends to support the call for a convention so as to take the question of secession out of the hands of the general assembly and to submit the question of our federal relations directly to the people. The action of a large meeting of citizens in Saint Louis with which I had much to do induced many who were wavering in the assembly to vote for a call of a convention. The convention was called and to the surprise of the secessionists in the assembly with Vest and Claib Jackson at their head there was a Union majority of more than 80,000-nearly three to one.
Such was the condition of affairs at the time of Mr. Lincoln's accession; such would have remained the condition of affairs had prudent, cautious means been used to lead the people of this State rather than to drive them. But unfortunately those who had the ear of the President were men whose sympathies were not in accord with those of the people, who had their own ends to subserve, who were reckless in assertion but positive in affirmation, and they were allowed to control things in Missouri as they saw fit. The opinions of the President and of the people of the Northern States were poisoned by those whose temper forbade their perceiving the real truth of things and whose passions prevented their granting any charity to a political adversary. No voices were allowed to be heard save the voices of those who were morally traitors to their State as banding with a political party whose spirit was directly hostile to its institutions. Force was made master by whose who were ignorant that law only has lawful authority and instead of using the marshal's writ they took the soldier's sword and the consequences have been terrible.