The dishonorable and treacherous practices which have so far characterized
the authorities at Washington, admonish us, that in the impending struggle
we are scarcely to expect the rules of honorable warfare. Having its origin
in a disordered moral sentiment of the North - not finding the ordinary
restraints of patriotism among their people - deriving its power from
a usurpation and perversion of the functions of government - having no
middle-ground short of positive subjugation of the South, or a defeat
which exposes its disgrace to the civilized world - I fear the time has
passed when peace can be hoped for by the more moral force of a united
South, without a trial of arms.
Having succeeded in confusing and dividing the border slave States, they
have had ample time for military preparations. The veil which concealed
their recent movements has been thrown aside. The note of war has been
sounded, and in the imperial proclamation, recently issued, the people
of the Confederate States and all who sympathize with them are treated
as rebels, and twenty days is allowed them to 'disperse' - and return
to their allegiance to the authorities at Washington. Without waiting
for the expiration of the twenty days, in addition to the regular army
and naval forces, a militia force of seventy-five thousand has been called
into the field to execute this edict, by the power of arms. As if purposely
intended to add additional insult to the people of Tennessee, I have been
called upon, as their Governor, to furnish a portion of these troops.
I have answered that demand as in my judgment became the honor of the
State, and leave the people to pass upon my action.
The Federal Union of the States, thus practically dissolved, can never
be restored; or if ever thus restored, it must, by the very act, cease
to be a Union of free and independent States, such as our fathers established.
It will become a consolidated, centralized Government, without liberty
or equality, in which some will reign and others serve -the few tyrannize
and the many suffer. It would be the greatest folly to hope for the reconstruction
of a peaceful Union, upon terms of fraternity and equality, at the end
of an internecine war. There can be no desirable Union without fraternity.
And if we could not have that, before the unholy crusade which is now
being waged against us, we cannot have it after they shall have wantonly
imbrued their unholy hands in the innocent blood of our people, from no
worthier motive than a desire to destroy our equality and subvert our
Therefore, I respectfully recommend the perfecting of an Ordinance by
the General Assembly, formally declaring the independence of the State
of Tennessee of the Federal Union, renouncing its authority, and reassuming
each and every function belonging to a separate sovereignty; and that
said Ordinance, when it shall have been thus perfected by the Legislature,
shall, at the earliest practicable time, be submitted to a vote of the
people, to be by them adopted or rejected.
When the people of the State shall formally declare their connection
with the remaining States of the Union dissolved, it will be a matter
of the highest expediency, - l might almost say of unavoidable political
necessity - that we shall at the same time, or as soon thereafter as may
be, connect ourselves with those with whom a common interest, a common
sympathy, and a common destiny identify us, for weal or for woe. That
each of the Southern States, as they throw off their connection with the
Federal Government, should take an independent position in the contest,
without that concert of action which alone can be secured by political
unity, is a proposition which surely no one will assent to, who anticipates
the dangers of the hour and the necessity for perfect harmony in the work
of our general defence.
Such a political Union with the people of the Confederate States is rendered
essential, by the fact, that we have made no provision for arming, organizing,
provisioning, and embodying our military forces, while the Government
of the Confederate States, foreseeing this invasion, has had an eye to
the necessities of the emergency, and stands prepared generously to lend
us its assistance in this unprovoked and cruel struggle. If we accept
that assistance, we should do it in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence,
prepared to share its burdens equally, while we avail ourselves of its
advantages. A Government thus perfectly organized can more thoroughly
command the resources and aggregate the revenues of the country than isolated
States, fighting without unity, and moving without a common and responsible
head. These resources, being thus concentrated, because it is natural
intuition to rally round such a Government, in such an emergency, for
self-preservation and defence, can be disbursed with more efficiency,
and with less cost to the people than when the revenues, necessary to
support the war, are scattered by divided counsels and not controlled
by a common bureau. The same may be said with regard to military operations.
Unity of movement, to secure unity of purpose in attack or defence, is
absolutely necessary to success. The people of the whole South, thus united
by a firm political compact, moving under the direction of one Government,
and animated by the sense of common perils and by a unanimous determination
to maintain their rights, liberties, and institutions, are invincible,
and must speedily conquer an honorable peace. The war must necessarily
be protracted or brief in proportion to the union among themselves.
I, therefore, further recommend that you perfect an ordinance, with a
view to our admission as a member of the Southern Confederacy, which,
it is evident, must soon embrace the entire slaveholding States of the
South, to be submitted in like manner, and at the same time, but separately,
for adoption or rejection by the people; so that they may have the opportunity
to approve the former and reject the latter, or adopt both, as in their
wisdom may seem most consistent with the future welfare of the State.
However fully satisfied the Executive and Legislature may be, as to the
urgent necessity for the speedy adoption of both these propositions, it
is our duty to furnish the amplest means for a fair and full expression
of the popular will.
In the opening of a revolution, fraught with such consequences, and the
close of which no one can foresee, it is a matter of the highest moment
that we determine, as speedily as possible our future political relations,
delaying only long enough to reach the will and voice of the people. Under
existing circumstances, I can see no propriety for encumbering the people
of the State with the election of delegates, to do that which it is your
power to enable them to do directly for themselves. The most direct as
well as the highest act of sovereignty, according to our theory, is that
by which the people vote, not merely for men, but for measures submitted
for their approval or rejection. Since it is only the voice of the people
that is to be heard, there is no reason why they may not as readily and
effectively express themselves upon an ordinance framed and submitted
to them by the Legislature, as if submitted to them by a Convention. The
Southern States, all of whom are now engaged in resistance to the encroachment
of Abolition power, will necessarily encounter embarrassments, arising
from a want of unity of action, until such time as they shall all be united
under a common Government.
The mode of action suggested, in addition to the advantage of its being
the speediest of all others, will be attended with less expense to the
State, which is of far greater importance now than at any former period
of our history, owing to the general embarrassment of the people, which
must continue at least during these troubles, and to the heavy appropriations
that you will have necessarily to make to defray the expense of our defences.
If, however, it should be deemed advisable that a Convention, representing
the sovereignty of the people, should be called by the General Assembly,
in preference to submitting an ordinance of independence directly to them,
though I deem the latter measure more expedient, under the circumstances,
I am not prepared to say that harmony and unanimity will not thus be effected.
The Senators and Representatives, coming, as they do, directly from their
constituents, are the best judges of this measure. It cannot be regarded
other than a question of detail, inasmuch as a very large majority of
the people regard themselves as being forever absolved from all obedience
to a Government that has developed the coldest and most deliberate purpose
to inaugurate a civil and sanguinary war among them.
I deem it proper to remark in this connection that the Constitution of
the Confederate States, while it retains all that is valuable of the Constitution
of the former United States, is an improvement in many essential points
upon that instrument, as conceded by those even those who were unfriendly
to the mode and manner in which it originated.
The only additional matter to which I shall call your attention and first
in importance - is the necessity of such legislation as will put the State
upon war footing immediately. I will not insult your intelligence or question
your patriotism so far as to resort to argument to prove the necessity
of this measure, but content myself by recommending the passage of a law
regulating the raising and thorough organization of an efficient volunteer
force for immediate service, in any emergency which may arise, and a thorough
and perfect organization of the militia, so that in case of necessity
the whole force of the State can be speedily brought into action.
In my message to your extra session in January last, I laid before you
the report of the Keeper of Public Arms, showing the number, character,
and condition of the arms of the State, to which I refer you for information
on that subject. Since that report was made, I have ordered and received
at the arsenal, fourteen hundred rifle muskets. If upon this subject further
or more accurate information is desired, it shall be laid before you by
the report of the proper officer.
It requires no argument from me to prove the absolute necessity of an
immediate appropriation of a sum sufficient to thoroughly arm and equip
such military force as the State may probably need in the prospective
difficulties which lie before us. In addition to which, I respectfully
recommend that you appropriate a sum sufficient to provision and maintain
such force as is intended for the field, and an ample contingent military
fund, to be subject to the order and disbursement of a Military Board,
under such restrictions as you may see proper to impose.
The establishment of a Military Board, to consist of at least three persons,
and invested with power to make all needful rules and regulations for
organization and maintenance, I regard as indispensably necessary to a
perfect military organization and equipment in the State, and the fact
that the Legislature cannot foresee and provide for the various contingent
expenses necessarily incidental to a state of war, justifies and makes
necessary the contingent military fund referred to.
I trust, gentlemen, that I have not so far mistaken your intelligence
and patriotism, as to render necessary that I should invoke you in the
name of all that is sacred and dear to us as a people - even the sanctity
of our domestic firesides - to forget past differences, and whatever may
tend in the least to distract your counsels in the present momentous crisis,
in which we have been involved by the unprovoked and tyrannical usurpation
of a people who, forgetting the lessons of their fathers, have overthrown
the fairest government upon earth, in the mere wantonness of an unnatural
sectional prejudice amounting to a sectional hate, and a disregard of
those great principles of justice and equality upon which the Federal
Union was based. I trust that to -day there are in Tennessee no Whigs,
no Democrats; but that we are one people - all patriots, all brothers,
recognizing a common interest and a common destiny; and that we will stand
as one man in defence of our honor and of our rights. I pray you to cultivate
a feeling of this kind, and to disseminate it amongst your constituents.
It is only by such united and determined action, on the part of the people
of the whole South, that we can hope to avoid the calamities of the bloodiest
and most devastating civil war that has afflicted any nation in the history
of the civilized world.
I trust that a few days will be amply sufficient to dispose of the business
which I have laid before you. Your presence may soon be needed in the
field, and if not, will be required at home for counsel among your constituents.
Trusting that an All Wise Providence may watch over your deliberations,
and direct you in the adoption of such measures, as may most subserve
the maintenance of the rights and liberties of the people, I submit the
determination of these matters to your hands.