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Augusta County: Alexander H. H. Stuart to Rev. W. G. Brownlow, 18 August 1856

Stuart responds to an invitation to attend a meeting of Millard Fillmore's political allies in Knoxville, Tennessee, speaking of the dangers of sectionalism and the opposition of the Democratic party with the nascent anti-slavery Republican party in the upcoming presidential election of 1856.

Rev W. G. Brownlow

Aug 18th 1856

Hot Springs Va

My dear Sir

I have had the honor to receive your letter, & also one from the committee of arrangements, inviting me to attend a mass meeting of the friends of Fillmore & Donnelson[?] to be held in Knoxville on the 4th of September. My reply has been delayed in the hope that I would be able to attend & hold communion with the patriot sons of Tennessee, but the condition of my health & duties nearer home compel me to forego that pleasure.

I am happy to learn from all quarters that Tennessee has a just appreciation of the magnitude of the issues involved in the coming presidential contest. In my judgement they are whether the integrity of the Constitution & the Union, & the peace of the Country are to be preserved. Heretofore parties have divided on questions which affected the interests of all parts of the Country. There has been nothing to stamp them with a geographical character. Hence their struggles have been comparatively harmless to the safety of the Country. The defeated party could // rally its forces & renew the contest again. But for the first time in the history of our country the alarming feature of sectionalism has been infused into the party strifes of the day. The democratic party, abandoning all its old land-marks has assumed the position of a slavery-extension party, & the black Republican Party on the other hand stands pledges to opposite principles of slavery-limitation. The necessary result of this array of adverse factions is to present the northern & Southern states in an attitude of irreconcilable antagonism & to cause the election to turn on the single issue of slavery. In such an unequal contest as this, it requires no spirit of prophesy to foretell which faction would be the victor, nor is it more difficult to foresee what would be the direful consequences of defeat. The dissolution of the union must inevitably follow, with a train of disastrous consequences which no pen can describe & no imagination conceive. The triumph of either of these parties would be the triumph of one section over the other, & if they were the only parties in the field I should regard // the future of the union as sealed. But fortunately there is a third party which has unfurled the flag of the Constitution & the union & appeals to the patriotic & conservative sentiment of the country. It rejects the extreme opinions of both the others. It seeks neither to extend nor to limit the area of slavery by the agency of the general government. It proposes to leave that question like other domestic question, to be settled by the conventions of the people when assembled under the authority of law, to frame constitutions prepatory to admission into the union. It propose to stand by the principles of the constitution & to look for the security of the rights of the South to the guarantees which the wisdom of our fathers provided, & which have hitherto proved effectual for their protection. It proposes to stand by the union as it is. Its motto is "the union must be preserved." It does not ask the north to approve the institution of slavery or to aid in its extension. But it says to the north "hands off," this is our affair, not yours. We seek not to intermeddle with your institutions & you must beware of interference with ours. We ask what // the constitution gives us & nothing more. This party is neither for the north against the South nor for the South against the north. Its sentiments & its creed are national not sectional. It looks to the whole country & not to a part. It is essentially American in its feelings, its principles & its policy. If clothed with power by the voice of the people it will put its heel to the head of the serpent of disunion & return harmony to the Country by recalling the people of all parts of the confederacy to a proper sense of their duty to the Constitution, to each other, & to the Country.

I should deprecate the election to the Presidency of a man who was the representative of extreme opinion, whether southern or northern, as one of the most direful curses that could befal the country in the present condition of its affairs, Exasperation of feeling, civil dessension[?] & most probably convulsion & disunion would follow. All hope of the restoration of harmony & fraternal feeling would be lost & and an appeal to arms would

[fragment ends. No more pages extant. This is probably a draft or copy of letter sent to WGB.]

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