This item by Joseph Alvey Clayton appeared in The Navarro Express,
Corsicana, Tex., on January 2, 1861, at page 1, columns 1 and 2,
in contemplation of the convention coming at the end of January
for delegates to vote on whether Texas should secede from the
United States. Two weeks later Clayton was selected as a delegate
to the convention from Navarro and Hill Counties. Obvious
typesetter's errors and misspellings have been corrected. The image
of Clayton at left is from a daguerreotype at the San Jacinto Museum.
TO THE VOTERS OF NAVARRO AND HILL COUNTIES.
At a public meeting of the people of Navarro county, I was requested to become a candidate for a seat in the Convention of the people to be held in the city of Austin on the fourth Monday in January, 1861. In times of peril to the institutions of our country, threatening the destruction of our social polity; when the constitution of government under which we have been reared has been overthrown and trampled in the dust: in a word, when life, liberty and honor hang for existence on the decision of the hour, he who aspires to represent a people in a convention called to deliberate and determine on issues so momentous, should make known the principles that will guide his action, if chosen.
If the people of this district select me at the ballot box, on the 8th day of January next, to speak for them in the approaching convention, I shall advocate, in the first place, that Texas shall resume the power she has delegated to the Federal Government, so that she can exercise her free sovereign, and unbiased choice in the acceptance or rejection of any guarantee that may be offered to her by the Northern States, to induce her to enter again into the Federal fold. As far as guarantees are concerned, it will be time enough to determine the action of Texas, when they shall be tendered her. But Texas is too proud—her people are too brave to ask and cringingly importune a bloated and victorious enemy to give a crumb to her, while her cheeks are smarting and stinging with the stroke. I have lived in Texas from boyhood; have followed her solitary star through fortune and its reverses; have seen it sink in a night of blood, and rise again and shine with the lustre of independence, and I have never seen it dimmed or dishonored. And I will not now, when she is great, tremblingly and coweringly importune or ask for quarter from a triumphant enemy, whose heel is raised for her neck. If you desire to submit and surrender to the outrages of an insulting victor, and seek some apology to appease your self-respect—if you are seeking some mere excuse to submit and bow your head, and the hitherto unbowed head of Texas to Abolition despotism in the shape of guaranty, you must excuse me from aiding in its consummation. But aside from the humiliation and mortification of asking and supplicating for terms and quarter, it would be fraught with ruin to Texas to accept guarantees from Abolitionism. Have we not had guarantees of the most sacred and binding character? Have we not the strongest guarantee that could be formed, in our Federal Constitution? Does it not provide, in express terms, for the recapture of our fugitives from labor? Does not every officer of the Federal and State Government take a solemn oath to support it? Have not the legislators of the Northern States, after swearing to support the Constitution, passed laws to nullify it, and incarcerate our citizens in their penitentiaries who claim to recover their negroes in the free States? Have not their members of Congress solemnly sworn to support the Constitution, and then aid in arming and setting on foot expeditions to invade us, and burn our houses and butcher our people? Did they not recommend the "Helper Book," which advocated burning and murder as legitimate means to abolish slavery? The guarantees of the Constitution—as strong as any could be made—is violated every day with impunity. We again had a guarantee in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which the Abolitionists of late denominate "the plighted faith of the nation;" and yet the refused to abide by it and carry it out; and when it was, time and again, offered, it was refused by the Abolitionists. We had a guarantee in the Compromise of 1850: all parties agreed to and adopted it as the finality of the slavery question; and yet they refused to carry it out, and trampled it under their feet, as they had done every guarantee they had given us. There is no faith to be kept with them on the slavery question; and why? Because the present generation have been taught from the fireside, from the pulpit, from the lecture room, from the press, from the forum, to regard slavery as a great moral iniquity. Their literature teems with it; their poets sing of it; and it is the great absorbing theme of the drawing room and the parlor. And they are taught to believe that the government is one entire central government, and that therefore they are responsible; and al long as we live with them, we will be harassed, outraged and invaded, until the irrepressible conflict will be consummated in the overthrow and utter ruin of the extreme Southern States.
Another reason why we should not accept any guaranty and continue in the Union, is that, if we go out now, the border slave States will be bound to follow us, and we could and would establish a Southern Confederacy with power to maintain and protect ourselves and our institutions against the world. But if we wait, the encroachments and aggressions of Abolitionism will drive the negroes from the border States into the coast States, and they will, in turn, become our enemies.—This is amply shown by the increased Abolition vote in those States, and the rapid increase of negroes in the coast States from them. This doctrine of asking quarter, or more familiarly known as demanding (?) guarantees, is comparatively of recent growth in Texas; at least it is not of "the days that tried men's souls." When her household was but a handful; when she was besieged by barbarous foes from the mountains to the sea; when she was half starved and oppressed with debt, she three her defiant banner to the breeze, and hung her solitary star in the heavens. Though repeatedly overwhelmed and ground in the dust by superiority of numbers, and advantage in the arms of war; though often compelled to stand by and see, in helplessness, her little band given over s victims in wholesale massacre, yet in this reign of terror and age of heroism, it is gratifying to the heart of one whose pride is, that he is her child—that she sued for no guarantees! Conscious of her right, she did not pause to count the strength of her foe, nor retire from the encounter for the odds in numbers and arms. But to the God who defends the right she raised her hand for aid, and bent her tall crest and fixed her firm eye steady on the battle. To those who love an ease that is criminal, and peace that hugs to its guilty bosom the wounded honor of the State, I shall look for little support. As Texas did not in her extremity, stop to estimate the foe and sum up the consequences, to assimilating the proud example of my mother, I shall not consider the number of her enemies now, and reckon up the probably results of my action. I shall strike for her good name, though I struck alone and regardless of what may be the consequences to myself.
To those who may fear a collision of arms between the Northern and Southern States, I may be pardoned for saying that fear is not founded in the history of the Northern people. They have never manifested any ver savage appetite for the profession of blood. Their history is decidedly the reverse of gluttony in that respect. They opposed the war of 1812 in every imaginable form, and the treasonable Hartford Convention, and the "blue lights" of Boston harbor stand as monuments of their aversion to war. They opposed the war with Mexico, and Mr. Lincoln himself, one of the distinguished leaders in Congress of the anti war party, advocated starving our troops out of Mexico by refusing supplies. The only war for which they have ever manifested much passion, is the insurrectionary war! But I may be asked, how are we to be more secure out of the Union with our property than in it? I answer emphatically by virtue of that power which every nation uses to protect itself by retaliation—by war if necessary—and by treaty. If they still decoy away our negroes and refuse to restore them, we can in turn retaliate on their commerce. This would prove a ready check and a sure guaranty of peace. It is because we cannot do that now in the Union, that we cannot have peace and protection. They can maraud upon us, steal our property, and burn our houses, and we are helpless because the Constitution forbids our making war on them, or seizing their property, and as an honorable people, we never have and never will violate the sacred compact which our fathers made for us.
These are my views upon the one great question now before us for decision. We are knit together in a web of interest and affection with our sisters of the South. Their destiny is our destiny; their glory is our glory. If they shall rise as they are doing, in the majesty of truth and the omnipotence of public virtue, and snap the chain that fetters them to abolition despotism, Texas must rise, too, and proclaim to them that her great heart beats in unison with theirs. If in the struggle for independence against the monster NEGRO EQUALTY—equality in political privileges—equality in all the social relations of life—the family circle, the church, the marriage altar; if they must fall and sink without resurrection in a grave of despotism, treachery and blood, Texas too will scorn all terms of surrender, and like the heroic Shackleford of her own bosom, will refuse to spare her own children when her comrades are given to the funeral piles of sacrifice.
J. A. CLAYTON