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John Bachman letter to Henry Summer

Letter, 6 September 1851, of John Bachman (1790-1874), Charleston, to [Henry Summer, Newberry], a lengthy expression of Southern views on the issues of secession and the Compromise of 1850, describes a trip to the North that included an interview with President Millard Fillmore.

"You are right in supposing that I am disposed to keep aloof from politics," Bachman wrote; "it is unsuited to my profession & the general tenour of my thoughts & studies. I however do not conceal my sentiments & when asked I express them without reserve. I do not go for the compromise or for submission under it. My views do not materially differ from those of McDonald, Quitman, Butler Soule Davis &c- I am opposed to separate state secession, but in favour of agitation, uniting the south—biding our time, & then if we do not receive justice in the Union, we can secure it out of it."

"With these sentiments I went to the North," the letter continues. "Why it was I am not quite able to account for, I was sought out & undeserved attentions heaped upon me....From the naturalists I had some right to expect attention as it belongs to the fraternity. But in most instances the favours seemed to have come from political men, principally I believe from those who had accepted the compromise—who hoped the Southwould be satisfied with it—and pledging themselves that the fugitive slave law would be enforced & that in another twelve months they would put down the abolitionists. I told them very distinctly that a growing party in the South felt themselves aggrieved at the compromise & would not submit until at least they had secured the introduction of slavery south of 36.30."

"The North does not wish disunion," Bachman further suggested. "They smile at the secession of a single state, but look grave when we speak of a southern confederacy. An attempt at the former will in my opinion weaken the South & strengthen the North. You did not quite understand me in my allusion to a conversation with Filmore. He appeared to be anxious to converse with me & spoke very freely in an interview of an hour. When he inquired what could be done to satisfy the South—my answer was,that the government must abide by the letter of the constitution....The president...said nothing about the views of government in regard to the possibility of Carolinas seceding. This however was frequently spoken of by other statesmen at the North. I think they were unanimous in this, that no army would be sent here. The Whigs I think would insist on collecting the duties at the Fort or if this could not be done to station a few armed vessel[s] at the harbour & send the vessels to pay duty at Wilmington or Savannah. The Democrats said let Carolina have the forts & the commerce. The government can afford to have custom houses on the borders & slowly Carolina will be starved out. The former are consolidationists—the latter generally support the state rights doctrine of Jefferson."

Inquiring whether Summer was a "a delegate to the state convention" and apologizing for what might be perceived as an attempt "to influence your sentiments," Bachman observed—"I doubt whether you do not think with me that our course can be best promoted by battling for our rights on the platform of McDonald & Quitman. In this case the states rights men would present an unbroken front. To this mark all Carolina will cheerfully come up. At present the Unionists in Geo. Alab. & Miss. bring to the people the violence of Carolina. The ultraism of our leader Rhett to show that our contending for the doctrine of state rights is only a blind to bring about a revolution. For this they are not prepared, as they are still hoping that our rights may be secured within the Union."

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