1861 March 13 Virginia State Convention, Richmond

Speech of Hon. John Tyler, ex-president of the United States

Mr. President, an aged man who had retired from the pursuits of busy life, surrounded by those comforts which should most properly surround one whose life had been spent in the public service..was startled from his quietude and repose, by a voice which came from the legislative halls of his native State, admonishing him of danger to the country, and making a requisition for all of energy that still remained with him, either physically or mentally, in the effort to rescue that country from the imminent peril that threatened it. It was the voice of Virginia, appealing, sir, to a son….The voice which startled me in my retirement, told me of feud, and discontent, and discord–of a tearing in twain of that beautiful flag which had floated so triumphantly over us in the days gone by, which I had never looked upon but my heart had throbbed with an emotion it is impossible for me to give utterance to. The Father of his Country had left behind an admonition to his children to avoid sectional feuds, but those feuds had arisen and had progressed, until they had culminated in disunion. I had seen their beginning, sir, thirty years before, when the dark cloud which now overspreads the hemisphere just rose above the horizon, no bigger than a man’s hand. It was the cloud of Abolitionism. …
Where is that Union now which we once so much loved? Where its beautiful flag which waved over a land of wealth, of grandeur, and of beauty? Wrong, abuse, contumely, unconstitutional acts, looking to higher law than the Constitution, thus setting men free from their obligations to society, have cut the ship of State loose from her moorings, and here she is drifting without helm or compass, amid rocks and whirlpools, her fragments floating in every direction–one part has gone Sough, while other parts moored for this moment, will probably at the next, break lose from their insecure anchorage. I grieve over this state of things, by day and by night. when I think of the manner in which all this has been brought about by a race of hungry, artful Catalines, who have misled the Northern mind solely for their own aggrandizement, my blood becomes so heated in my veins as to scald and burn them in its rapid flow.

[Tyler then reviews the various proposals of the Peace Conference concluding that they are not favorable to the South. He will resume his arguments on March 14]

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