Monday, November 12, 2012

Kentucky Gov. Robinson and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part I

On January 8, 1863, Kentucky Governor James F. Robinson addressed the General Assembly upon that body's adjournment. Robinson had replaced Beriah Magoffin with the later's resignation in August 1862 - just before Confederate forces advanced into the state.

In this speech Robinson noted the difficult position in which Kentucky found itself and the troubles it had faced by being occupied by both Federal and Confederate troops. Of particular mention in the address was that "the rights of property have not been respected." He complained that "farms have been laid waste, provisions have been seized, forage has been collected, and instead of being brought in open market where the supply would be ample and the competition fair, commissaries have gone with teams and soldiers, taking grain and other commodities from the farmers at whatever price the commissaries chose to affix to them . . . " He also asked rhetorically - or possibly just inquisitively   "Why is it, that all supplies are bought and paid for in Ohio, the Government coming in as any other purchaser, while the same things are unceremoniously seized in Kentucky?" He and other Kentuckians saw this practice as being unfair, even in war.

But, however disturbing that disrespect for property was, "there looms up before . . . a more gigantic evil - one, the bare contemplation of which, sickens the heart and fills all with gloomy and dreadful forebodings." If one could not guess, Governor Robinson was referring the tampering of "slave property of Kentucky."

Robinson declared that it did not matter now if it would have been better or not to have admitted slavery into Kentucky from the beginning - "It was brought from our old mother Virginia and by men who had fought the Revolutionary war . . . " and was now established.

The governor claimed that slavery had advanced the "African captive, the creature of superstitious ignorance and savage cruelty . . . ." According to Robinson the African's positive evolution was due to him being "under the tutelage of a humane but necessary subjection to a superior race . . . ."

He continued that Kentucky wrote slavery into their state constitution and that document certainly agreed with the Federal Constitution's sanction of slavery. Robinson claimed that Kentucky had suffered more from the loss of slaves than any other state of the Union but "she never attempted violence in its recovery." And although Kentucky had "complaint against fanatic citizens of the North Western States," she noted the difference between individuals and their state governments and held the individuals not the states responsible.

Robinson declared that Kentucky was well aware that the constitutions of the federal government and state governments "constituted her best safeguard for her slave and every other species of property . . . ." And, Kentucky had refused the enticements of the Southern Confederacy because of this fact. During the Bleeding Kansas years, Kentucky "looked on with indifference" and let the matter be settled as the laws allowed. Too, Kentucky, although their candidate of choice was not selected, had been encouraged that the Republican Party had a platform that disavowed "any right or purpose to interfere with slavery in the States where it already existed by law."

Robinson said that at the outbreak of the war Kentucky assumed no move would be made that could not be undone to fix "a peaceful adjustment of all pending difficulties. She never allowed herself for one moment to stop to discuss the value of the Union. In her estimation nothing could compare with its value, or compensate its loss; and hence, when Southern politicians made bare their treasonable purposes, regardless of the disruption it made in her own social fabric, and the utter derangement and ruin of her commercial interests, she took her stand on the side of the Union and had maintained it with her treasure and her blood. The Constitution of the Union has not yet been changed and with her consent never shall be." [Emphasis in original]

To be continued...
Image courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society

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