Florida in the Civil War
Letter from General Richard Keith Call, 1860
(From: Selected Documents, State Library and Archives of Florida)
"There are no men in your State, sir, who will resent an insult, or avenge a wrong to Florida, with more promptitude — more spirit and pride, than they. There are none who will resist the Black Republicans with more firmness and energy — none who will take up arms sooner — none who will fight more bravely, under the stars and the stripes of the Union; but they will not be led like slaves — they will not be lead, or driven, into revolution, rebellion and treason against their country."
Written on the eve of the Civil War, this letter from former Florida governor General Richard Keith Call expresses his pro-Union, pro-Southern sentiments.
Letter from Gen. R. K. Call
The following letter was written for publication in the last Sentinel, but in consequence of our issuing on Monday, in advance of our usual time for publication, it was not received in time for insertion. By request, we issue it in the following slip.
Lake Jackson, Saturday night
December 22nd, 1860
Mr. Hart: I have attended two election precincts to-day, one in Leon, and one in Gadsden County, and never at any time, or on any occasion within the last ten years, have I seen so much unanimity, so much enthusiasm, in the support of the glorious American Union, as on this day, appointed for its destruction by political leaders!
At Young’s precinct, in this County, there were only twenty-one votes given, and the highest candidate on the conservative ticket received just twenty-one votes. At Concordia, in Gadsden County, there were 146 votes given, and of this number the highest candidate on the Union Ticket received 136 votes, and the lowest candidate on the Union ticket received 132 votes. The highest candidate on the disunion ticket received ten votes, and the lowest candidate on the disunion ticket received only eight votes.
Never, sir, have I witnessed a more imposing and interesting spectacle. Every voter belonging to the district, able to reach the polls, was present — every one was of that highly respectable, moral, religious, and intelligent working class of men, for which Gadsden County has ever been so pre-eminently distinguished. There was not a politician — not a leader, among them. Each one came up in the true dignity of the free American citizen, prompted by a spontaneous love of country, which animated every heart, and beamed from every eye. All were calm, grave and thoughtful. All seemed deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion. All seemed to feel most sensibly, the sacred duty — the high responsibility of the American citizen, surprised in his quiet home by the sudden, unexpected, and precipitate call to decide, almost without a moment’s reflection, the most momentous and solemn question ever presented for the decision of mankind, to pronounce judgment of approval, or condemnation on the whole great system of popular government; — a judgment which must immediately affect themselves, the liberty, the peace, safety, happiness and prosperity, of 80,000,000 of American citizens, and the relations and liberty of the whole world. All seemed to feel most deeply — most sensibly — that they were called on in a rash, impetuous hour, to decide the fate of the American Union — to decide the fate of the great Temple of civil and religious liberty, in which men of all nations and tongues are worshippers. — And each and all did their duty, their whole duty, in a manner honorable to them and honorable to the American name. Brave, faithful friends of their country! With them a wild retreat, a headlong rush out of the Union, is not May-day pastime, no Saturday night’s frolic, no jubilee for a nation’s glory.
There are no men in your State, sir, who will resent an insult, or avenge a wrong to Florida, with more promptitude — more spirit and pride, than they. There are none who will resist the Black Republicans with more firmness and energy — none who will take up arms sooner — none who will fight more bravely, under the stars and the stripes of the Union; but they will not be led like slaves — they will not be lead, or driven, into revolution, rebellion and treason against their country. They will yield no constitutional rights of their State, or of any man of their State, to any earthly power, and they will submit to no wrong or injustice, at home or abroad.
I doubt not, sir, that the voices of these brave and patriotic men of Leon, and Gadsden, “vox populi vez dei” is the voice of nine-tenths of the working men of Florida, who have had time to think for themselves, uninfluenced by excited politicians.
They will never yield any constitutional guarantee of African slavery — they will unite firmly and faithfully with all men of the South, in demanding from the North, and enforcing every legal and constitutional right of the South. But they will “submit” to the law while it is constitutional, and they will maintain the Union while it is constitutional.
They are true and loyal to every principle of our government, under which our fathers lived, under which we have lived so free, so prosperous, so happy. They acknowledge the right of the majority to govern, and will yield readily obedience to the will of the majority, whenever fully, calmly, and deliberately expressed. But they will not be surprised into disunion. If they have not been allowed time to think — they will take time to think, and they will act as becomes loyal American citizens. I do most sincerely hope, sire, that the Convention, so suddenly called, so precipitately, so hastily chosen, whatever may be its political complexion, will weigh well, and deliberately consider, the great responsibilities so inconsiderately and rashly thrown upon them. I do sincerely hope that reason may not be dethroned by passion — that no attempt will be made rashly to strike the American Flag — that no attempt will be made to declare Florida a nation alien and foreign to the American people, until Georgia shall have gone out of the Union — and until the Ordinance for the secession of Florida shall, for a reasonable time, have been submitted to the people for their sovereign approval or condemnation. Be assured, sir, that any attempt to surprise the people into disunion, contrary to their wishes, to destroy this free and glorious government, will be met with a rebuke corresponding in sternness and energy with the audacity of the design to precipitate them into revolution, rebellion, and treason against the government to which they owe allegiance, and for which they are ready to die! And may the Providence of a merciful God, defend us all from the dire calamities with which we are threatened.
Glorious anniversary of a glorious night, Jackson’s first victory on the banks of the Mississippi.
Post-script. — The 8th day of January 1861, will be celebrated at the Lake Jackson Church. It will not be a day of eating and drinking — it will not be a festive day, but a day of thanksgiving to God — a day of honor and gratitude to the memory of the great Chief, whose prowess in arms, has made that day glorious in the world’s history.
Ladies and gentlemen of Florida and the adjoining counties of Georgia, whose hearts beat time to “the music of the Union” — true hearted American citizens, are cordially invited.
A Portrait of General Jackson taken 35 years ago will be displayed under a banner bearing a Star for every State of the Union, which has not “nullified” the Fugitive Slave law and denied the Supreme jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States. All States which have deliberately committed either of these grave violations of the constitution, will in the sentiment of the gallant sailor on shore, the brave Stockton, Hero of the “city of Angels,” hero of Sacramento, be regarded as out of fellowship with the Loyal States of the American Confederacy.
Addresses not exceeding fifteen minutes in length will be delivered by those whom the occasion may inspire to offer the tribute of heartfelt gratitude to the memory of the Hero of New Orleans. There will be no pomp — no ostentatious pageantry, all will come up with true American hearts, to lay their grateful offering on the altar of their country.