10 April 2011

An Unjust Rebellion

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter and the beginning of the American Civil War. In 1861, Theodore Raymo was 20 years old. To the best of my knowledge, he did not serve in the army.  I do not know whether he tried and was rejected, or if he never enlisted. However, we do have a glimpse of what his views on the conflict were.

Among Charlotte's family history papers was this handwritten essay with accompanying note and transcription. Charlotte writes: 

The original paper, written by my Grandfather Theodore Raymo (1841-1906), was given to me by Aunt Hazel (Mrs. William Krumm), August 15, 1960. It is written in ink on embossed stationery, and preserved in excellent condition.
Charlotte Raymo 
Chattanooga, Tennessee

It is dated "Ypsilanti, October 1st, 1861". Ypsilanti was a town about 13 miles west of Theodore's home in Nankin, Michigan. It is possible that Theodore was attending school there, probably at the Michigan State Normal School, which later became Eastern Michigan University. The essay is transcribed below.

An unjust rebellion is one of the most wicked acts that humanity can be engaged in; it fills the land with desolation and mourning; indeed it is impossible for us to comprehend the amount of suffering that it produces both in mind and body; it excites the most bitter feelings even in the same household; poisons the whole nation and destroys its mutual peace and happiness.
Let us for a moment look at our own distracted country which was once peaceful and happy, but now drenched with the blood of kindred, produced by the most infamous rebellion that ever existed. In the breaking out of the rebellion our government was controlled by traitorous hands, draining all its resources of self defense, and placing them in the hands of traitors, and when its overthrow was imminent the chief magistrate then in power with the greater portion of Congress, was unalarmed about its condition, not even attempting to put into execution the laws which were made for its protection. Such was the condition of our government when the present administration was inaugurated and the President seeing the peril which delay would occasion (and Congress not being in session) without delay and upon his own responsibility called upon the lovers of this country to uphold its integrity, and without a moment's delay thousands were ready to sacrifice themselves upon its altar, to sustain its rights against all treason, and although they have performed this mission faithfully, and many lie mouldering beneath the clods of the valley, yet men whom they have laid down their lives to protect cry out against the President for not waiting until it should have been ordered by Congress, running the risk of the capital being taken (which in the end would have caused the sacrifice of more of its children than it now does) not considering that the fault was not in the President, but in the former Congress for not acting when duty required; therefore they were transgressors not he. Again after many lives had been sacrificed, the administration discovers that the root and foundation of the rebellion (which is African slavery) is used as its drudge, throwing up breastworks against the defenders of our great and glorious government; and here they find action is necessary. In the first place they regard these slaves as property and confiscated them accordingly; but they find this is not sufficient, and hence they regard them as human beings and declare them free, and these slaves hearing the voice of freedom are aroused as only human beings can be who are in bonds, to obtain their freedom, and hence even if retained among the traitors be of the same to them they were before.
Again the fault finders howl against the administration for breaking this arm of the rebellion, and having mercy on our own brave soldiers and the African race; declaring that slavery was formerly sanctioned by the government but is now overthrown by it which is violating the constitution; again that it is an institution that should exist and is sanctioned by holy writ; that the administration is taking from the traitors the rights which the constitution has guaranteed to them making the whole thing a violation of constitutional law.
Let us for a moment (look) at those points and see if they are reasonable. Treason is punishable with death and if the government punish the traitors according to their just deserts who is going to be left to propagate slavery? It is certain their northern sympathizers will not do it for fear of coming to the same end; but if the government is so merciful as not to destroy them all, is it reasonable that the institution which caused them to rebel be delivered to them again to poison their minds and cause them to commit the same act again, and no one doubts but what African slavery was the poison which caused this rebellion. Therefore it is unreasonable for the constitution to protect any institution that does not protect it, especially an institution which has been a disgrace to our government ever since its existence. Again if these fault finders wish to go according to the Bible, why do they not go and tell their southern friends that it is time for the year of jubilee, and they should let their slaves go free; again that the government is taking their rights from them, we would respectfully ask if the constitution guarantees any other right to traitors except to be hung. It is of no use to argue this matter. It is plain to be seen that these men are but using the language of traitors of the most base and cowardly kind, advocating the continuance of an institution which has caused an infamous rebellion against the best government on the globe causing its soil to be steeped in blood which is enough to make any man shudder at the thought; hence we do not wonder that Senator Chandler said to trade such men for negroes and if there was any left takes mules for them, would be a good bargain for the government.
T. Raymo
The "Senator Chandler" that Theodore refers to is Michigan's own Senator Zachariah Chandler, who was a strident abolitionist in Washington at the time. Earlier that year, in February 1861, Chandler had written his infamous "blood letter" which forcefully called for answering the secessionist South with violent opposition. Chandler wrote "Without a little blood-letting this Union will not, in my estimation, be worth a rush." Chandler got his wish.

On the back page of Theodore's essay, he has also worked out in pencil some of his Algebra problems, as well as signing his name in the left margin.