Wolford Speech - 1864

Transcribed from the microfilmed

Louisville Journal


Saturday, October 1, 1864, page [?]3


  SPEECH OF COLONEL FRANK WOLFORD AT RICHMOND, MADISON  COUNTY, KY. --We give below a report of the principal part of Colonel Wolford's  speech at Richmond on the 19th of September:


  I have been asked to point out a single clause in the Constitution of the United States that Mr. Lincoln has violated. This is an easy task; for there is scarcely a clause in that sacred instrument that he has not violated.

  He is required by the constitution to see that laws are faithfully executed. This duty, honestly performed, secures to the people all their rights -- the full protection of the law and full enjoyment of all the blessings of the government. But I charge, that, instead of doing this, he has violated the constitution, and trampled the law under his feet, and that he has disregarded all the rights of the States as well as all the rights of the people. There are twelve priceless rights and glorious privileges, which make the American people great and free, which give them dignity, character, and position, which ennoble, elevate, and make them happy when the land is blessed with peace, and which protect and defend them from evil, and shield them from violence and oppression, when the land is cursed with war. They were placed by the framers of the constitution above the reach of the executive, of the judiciary, of the military, and also above the reach of Congress. No power on earth can rightfully deprive the citizen of their enjoyment. I will enumerate them. The first is the right of the people to a free religion; the second is the right of the people to free discussion; the third is the right of the people to a free election; the fourth is the right of the people to keep and bear arms; the fifth is the right of the people to be secure in their persons; the sixth is the right of the people to be secure in their houses; papers, and effects; the seventh is the right of the people to the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property; the eighth is the right of the people, when accused of a crime, to a speedy and impartial trial by a jury; the ninth is the right of the accused to be confronted face to face with the witnesses against him; the tenth is the right of the owner to just compensation for his property when taken for public use; the eleventh is the right of the people for a writ of habeas corpus; and the twelfth is the right of the officers and soldiers in the army to be governed by the constitution, laws, and army regulations. These rights give life and vitality to our government, and interest and importance to our laws. They are the twelve foundations on which our political Zion is built -- the twelve great pillars upon which the temple of American liberty stands. And yet I shall show that Mr. Lincoln has violated and is attempting to destroy every one of them. I ask your patience while I speak of these rights in detail, read the articles of the constitution which secures them, and show the manner in which Mr. Lincoln has violated them.

  1.  The right of the people to a free religion. This right pertains to the heart. It is the right that the citizen has to the full enjoyment of the freedom of his soul and his own private judgment on all religious subjects, in the exercise of all the religious privileges of his church, and in the worship of Almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience. This right Mr. Lincoln has violated by confiscating churches and church property; by forbidding congregations to assemble to worship because they would not pray such political prayers as he dictated; and by arresting and imprisoning ministers of the Gospel and others for the reason that they had been heard to pray for peace.

  2.  The right of the people to free discussion. This right pertains to the mind. It includes the freedom of thought, the freedom of judgment, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press, together with all the means of a full investigation of every subject that comes within the grasp of the human intellect.  In the exercise of this great right, the American citizen may speak and write and publish to the world every emotion of his heart, every feeling of his soul, and all his thoughts on every subject -- on religion, politics, morals, science, and literature -- being responsible to God and his fellow-man for the truth of what he speaks or publishes. Mr. Lincoln not only violates this right but treats the enjoyment of it as a crime. In proof of this, I refer you to the great number of men that he has caused to be arrested and imprisoned for criticising the policy of his administration and exposing his wickedness. These arrests have taken place among you, and you are familiar with all the circumstances.

  By denying to you the enjoyment of these two rights, he enslaves your minds and hearts, and violates the first article of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which reads as follows:



  Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.


  3.  The right of the people to a free election. The importance of this right cannot be overestimated. It is essential to the very existence of our government. If the people are capable of self-government, of making their own laws and of choosing their own agents to execute those laws, then they are entitled to the utmost freedom in the choice of such agents. So important do I consider this right that I have no hesitation in saying that I am for a free election or a free fight. The right of the people to rule through the ballot-box is one of the questions to be settled by this war.  Mr. Lincoln was constitutionally elected, according to the forms of law, at an election in which a free vote was cast by all the people of the United States. The rebels said his election was sufficient cause to break up the government, and appealed to arms. Mr. Lincoln, in discussing this question in one of his messages, says that the rebels appealed from ballots to bullets, and for this he argues that the rebels ought to be killed. I ask what ought to be done with him now, when he takes the rebel side of the question and appeals himself from ballots to bayonets and bullets?

  The freedom of election has been violated by Mr. Lincoln in several of the States on different occasions. But I will refer you to an instance of an alarming character which happened very recently in our own State in which the Constitution of the United States, the constitution and laws of the State of Kentucky, all the rights of the State, and all the rights of the people, were violated together. This interference was in the election of a Judge of the Court of Appeals in this District, at the last August election. Alvin Duvall, who was at that time one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals, and Chief Justice of the Court, was a candidate for re-election. Mr. Lincoln, by one of his subordinate officers, General Burbridge, had orders sent to all the officers of the election to strike Duvall's name from the poll-books, and n some places this order was enforced by the bayonet. This proceeding, which is known to you all, and happened right among you, violates the Constitution of the United States, which not only recognizes the existence of State governments, but expressly declares that all power not given by that instrument to the General Government is reserved to the States and to the people. The office of Judge of the Court of Appeals was made by the constitution and laws of Kentucky. The judge is a State officer, with whom Mr. Lincoln has nothing to do. But the temptation in this case was a great one. Mr. Lincoln's minions in the State, and all over the State, have been committing numerous depredations on the rights of citizens, and taking their property from them in a shameful manner. They fears suits, many of which will expose Mr. Lincoln himself. The Court of Appeals is the highest court in the State. It has always been composed of judges eminent for their purity and learning. This court expounds the law of the State, and sends forth streams of legal light from which all the courts in the State are enlightened on all questions touching the life, liberty, and property of the citizen. If this court can be corrupted, Mr. Lincoln's minions may be screened. Judge Duvall is a man of integrity and character. He cannot be corrupted. His name is ordered to be taken from the poll-books at a time when it is thought too late for the name of any other candidate of character to be sent sufficiently over the district to secure his election. In this, however, they were mistaken. The name of the illustrious Robertson was sent to places enough to secure his election, Mr. Lincoln's efforts to the contrary notwithstanding. There are a few inferences to be drawn from this case, to which I wish to call your attention. If Mr. Lincoln can send military orders to the officers of the election, and force them to violate their oaths and the laws of the State under which they are acting, and obey his will, may not he send military orders to the judges of your courts on the bench, and force them to violate their oaths and the laws of the land that they are administering, and obey his will? And may he not suspend all your laws, and force all the civil officers in the State to obey his will, and execute military orders on the people, and govern you entirely by power? Do you not see things tending in that direction? Witness the military order to the county courts to raise men and furnish money, and the numerous military orders in relation to what you shall say to your servants, and how you shall act toward them; witness even the arrest of men because some military commander has heard that their manner of governing their servants was not such as he approves. In view of all this, who can say that the laws of our country, and the liberties of the people, are not in danger of being swallowed up?

  4.  The right of the people to keep and bear arms. In violation of this right, Mr. Lincoln not only has military orders issued forbidding you to buy arms, but orders those that you already  have to be taken from you; and armed soldiers are sent your houses to rob you of them -- soldiers who in their visits often rob you of other things. Thus you are left to the mercy of guerillas, with your own lives, the lives of your wives and children, and all your property, exposed without the means of self-defense. Permit me now to read the article of the constitution that secures this right:



  A well-regulated militia being a necessity to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.


  5.  The right of the people to be secure in their persons from unlawful and unreasonable arrests and seizures. This brings us to consider the question when and for what purpose military arrests may be properly made. The military may arrest spies, and other persons connected with and in the secret service of the army of the enemy, and have them tried by military courts. The military may arrest citizens in places  where active hostilities exist, to keep them from giving aid and information to the enemy; and in cases of extraordinary public danger, where the civil power is not sufficiently strong, the military may arrest persons suspected of a crime, as was the case of the persons arrested by General Wilkinson, who were accused of being implicated in Burr's conspiracy, and also of the members of the Legislature of Louisiana, arrested by General Jackson, and likewise of the members of the Maryland Legislature, arrested by General Banks. But in every case where a citizen is arrested, who is accused of a crime against the laws of his country, in a place where civil authority is enforced and the civil law can be executed, it is the duty of the President -- who is the head of the civil as well as of the military authority, who may be said to hold the reins of the civil authority in his right hand and those of the military in his left, and who is sworn to see the civil law faithfully executed -- to see that he is delivered over to the civil authority; as President Jefferson did in the case of the arrest by Wilkinson, and as President Lincoln did not in the case of the arrest by Banks, and as he has not done in thousands of other cases where citizens have been arrested by military despots and punished contrary to law. You know full well, gentlemen, what a reign of terror Mr. Lincoln has inaugurated in our State by his arbitrary system of arrests and punishments without trial; how the military, in many instances, instead of being your friends and protectors, have set all your laws at defiance, insulted you, and trampled on your rights; how they have arrested hundreds of your best citizens, men of character and worth, and cast them into prison, or banished them from this country, without any kind of trial whatever, either civil or military, for no other reason than their opposition to Mr. Lincoln's policy, and because they were in favor of General McClellan. And you further know that women and children and helpless old men have not escaped. But I am told that bad men are sometimes arrested. Bad men can be punished by this law, and should be. I do not want them to escape. I assert that there is no need of military arrests in Kentucky. The civil officers can make all the arrests of men that are at home that ought to be made. The courts are all open, and the laws of Kentucky and of the nation furnish a remedy for every evil, and denounce ample punishment against every crime. I call upon my friend, who is here to advocate the cause of Mr. Lincoln, to name a single crime that is not sufficiently punished in the criminal courts of our country, or of a single wrong that any man can do that the law does not furnish a sufficient remedy for. If you cannot name one, why advocate this unlawful system of cruelty and oppression? Does my friend deny that good men in Kentucky have been arrested because bad ones hoped their property would be confiscated and they would get part of it? Does he deny that thousands of dollars have been extorted from good men under a threat from Mr. Lincoln's secret spies and informers to have them arrested if they did not pay, they having no confidence in getting justice at the hands of the military authority; and preferring in this way to buy their peace? Does he deny that large sums of money have been paid, by men who have been arrested, to lawyers, not for the benefit of their councel on a trial, but to procure their influences with military commanders, to have unjust sentences that had been passed on them mitigated or changed? The remarks that I have made in relation to the military authority in Kentucky are not intended to apply to all military agents, for I am glad to know many of them are too noble to gratify Mr. Lincoln's wishes in these matters.

  6.  The right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is the most delicate of all the rights of the citizen. There is something in it that I cannot utter. There is a refinement somewhere there which I cannot reach. The freeman's sacred home, the shelter of his wife and family, his and their private effects, the family secrets, the secret papers containing their plans, their hopes, their fears, and the deep love of their hearts; -- who could sin against human nature by wishing even to see them? But even this sacred right has been repeatedly and brutally violated by Mr. Lincoln's orders without any just cause or any prospect of good resulting therefrom. Let me read the whole of the article of the constitution which guarantees these rights:



  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall be issued but on probably cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.


  7.   The right of the people to the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, until they are taken by due process of law.

  8.  The right of the accused to a speedy and impartial trial by a jury.

  9. The right of the accused to be confronted with face to face with witnesses against him.

  The rights are violated every time the life or liberty of a citizen is taken without a fair trial before a jury of his country. The lives of some of your citizens have been taken without any kind of a trial; in other cases, they have been tried and shot where the trial was before courts that had no jurisdiction in the case and was in fact but little better than a mockery; and more than a thousand of your citizens have been deprived of their liberty without any trial at all. It is a solemn thought that the life and liberty of freemen are in the absolute power of men who disregard the laws. Any man that ought to die would be condemned on a fair trial by a jury of his country; and any man that ought to lose his liberty would be deprived of it by the law.

  All just punishment is for the public good; and the public good demands that all honor shall be given to the law, and that all those that are in authority shall respect and obey the law. I will now read the articles of the constitution covering these rights:



  No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentation or indictment of the Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger, nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled to testify against himself, nor deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.




  In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right of a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.


  10.  The right of the owner to just compensation for his property when taken for public use. This right Mr. Lincoln has violated in relation to your slaves, and every other species of property. The confiscation acts, the license given to military officers to impress property, the power given to Quartermasters in relation to property, are all in violation of this right. But I do not choose on this occasion to enter into a discussion of these questions.

  11.  The right of the people to the writ of habeas corpus. This right secures to the citizen who is unlawfully imprisoned or confined the privilege of coming before the judiciary and being discharged. For this great right the friends of civil liberty in England struggled, convulsed in blood, six hundred years; but Mr. Lincoln strikes it from existence by one stroke of the pen.

  12.  The right of the officers and soldiers in the army to be governed by the constitution and laws of the country and by the army regulations. This right protects the officers and soldiers from all acts of tyranny and oppression on the part of their superiors. The Constitution of the United States says that Congress shall make rules and regulations to govern the army, and Congress accordingly has made rules and regulations, which the officers have to subscribe to; and every officer is bound by his oath to support the constitution. Yet Mr. Lincoln, whose duty it is to obey the constitution and the army regulations himself, issues orders violating both the constitution and the army regulations, and expects the officers in the army to obey them.

  I hope my friend is now satisfied that Mr. Lincoln has violated the constitution; but before I leave the subject, let me ask him to point out a single clause in the constitution, which secures to the States or to the people a great right, which Mr. Lincoln has not violated. Will my friend please answer me? My friend declines to answer, and try to show the clause, and I am sorry for it, for to the American patriot who stands and sees all the rights and all the privileges of the people and all the great principles of civil liberty destroyed before his eyes, the knowledge that one great right remains untouched would bring to his heart something like the joy that the weary traveller feels when he finds an oasis in the desert.

  An attempt has been made to prop the falling fortune of Mr. Lincoln by giving to him the glory of the brilliant victories achieved by our army. This is unjust. It does injustice to the gallant officers and soldiers of the army. It was their skill and valor that won those victories, and they alone are entitled to the glory. McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Burnside, Hancock, Thomas, and all the other officers and all the privates in the army are entitled to their share of the glory; but Mr. Lincoln is entitled to none of it. Tell me, you that claim the glory for Mr. Lincoln, was it Lincoln or Sherman whose skill conducted our army in triumph to Atlanta? Was it Lincoln or the officers and privates of our army, I say, who bravely fought the battles, nobly endured the hardships, and gallantly shed the blood, which enabled Sherman to win that splendid succession of victories which brought him to Atlanta? Is it Lincoln or the people of the United States that make the army, and furnish the money and pay and support it? Mr. Lincoln is not a warrior, and has no right to a warrior's glory.

  If he is entitled to any glory, it is the statesman's glory. If his conduct and bearing have been dignified and grave, befitting the solemn scenes through which the country has been passing during his administration -- if his policy has been wise and patriotic, his measures sagacious and sensible, tending to promote the happiness of the people, and the honor of the country -- then he has established his claim to statesmanship, and should receive a statesman's honor. But I charge that the policy he has adopted and is pursuing is not the wise and comprehensive policy of the enlightened statesman -- not the policy which is calculated to preserve the Union, restore law and order, and bring back peace and harmony to the people; but that it is a narrow, selfish, and contracted policy, which is calculated to engender strife, increase confusion, prolong the war, and bring ruin and destruction to the country. In proof of this, let me submit a few facts and arguments.

  We have had a war of more than three years' duration, which has all the time been getting more and more gigantic in its proportions. Our army still grows larger. The number of our slain still increases, the deep dark spirit of revenge still widens and expands, and all the horrors of war grow more numerous and more horrible. There is no prospect of peace. Let me ask, whose fault is it that the war is not closed, and the Union saved? It is not the fault of the officers of our army, for they are faithful and skillful. It is not the fault of the soldiers, for they are noble and brave. Our army has proved its skill and valor by defeating the rebels on numerous battle-fields, and capturing several of their armies. It has nobly done its duty and its whole duty. The conquests of our army have been surprising. We have taken possession of and now occupy large portions of rebel territory; we have captured Nashville, New Orleans, Vicksburg, Knoxville, and planted the stars and stripes on the walls of Atlanta; we have driven the rebels to Petersburg and Richmond, and will, I hope, soon have possession of both; but still the war goes on with unabated fury, and large drafts are now making to furnish men needed for the field. The fault is not in the people, for they have furnished men and money to carry on the war without stint or measure. The fault is in this: The President and his counsellors and party, those who rule the Congress, have not had sense enough to see the difference between whipping an army and conquering a people. The rebel army has been often whipped, but the Southern people are not conquered. Nor are they likely to be either conquered or conciliated while the unwise and cruel policy of Mr. Lincoln prevails.

  There are two courses of policy proposed to be pursued. The one is Mr. Lincoln's policy, which is to whip the rebel army, free by force the slaves of the South, conquer and subjugate the Southern people, confiscate their property, degrade and disgrace them, and bring them back into the Union, if at all, without character and without property. The other is the policy of General McClellan, which is to whip the rebel army, protect the Southern people in the enjoyment of their property, and, by acts of justice, mercy, and kindness, win the people back to their allegiance and to the love of the Union, thus bringing them back with their property and with their character, to be once more a part of the pride and glory of this great nation. Re-elect Mr. Lincoln, and his policy continues for the ensuing four years, and as a necessary consequence the war continues. He has no skill in the matter, no statesmanship to stop the war. The leading idea of his Administration will be, as it has been, to abolish slavery by force. This is avowed in the platform of his party, and in his address "To whom it may concern." Connected with this idea, and as a means of enforcing it, is the idea of conquest, including confiscation of private property, plunder, intolerance, and cruel treatment of rebel citizens. In opposition to this idea, the Southern people are a unit; and, before they will submit to it, they will fight as long as a man can be found to fight. We will defeat one army only to find another ready for us, fired with indignation, and inflamed with revenge. Old men and boys will rush to the army and court death. In view of these facts, who can doubt, if Mr. Lincoln is re-elected, that the war will continue four years longer?

  And what, let me ask, will be the dreadful consequences to the people of the nation? Let us look at a few of them. The wealth of the nation will be exhausted, and a debt entailed upon us that we can never pay. So many men will have been taken from the fields to the army that the products of the country will fail and famine will ensue. The land will be filled with mourning for the almost countless numbers of our best men that will be slain; and the general grief will be increased by the cripples and widows and orphans, who will become (I was almost tempted to say) a host which no man can number. Nor is this the worst. The continual occurrence of violence, blood, and crime will harden the hearts of the people, being continually beat on war, and only war, will have no time for the ennobling and enlightening pursuits of literature and science; and thus we will see the nation go down in the scale of intellect and of morals as long as the war continues, so that at the end of four more years, instead of being, as we were at the commencement of the war, a wealthy, intelligent, free, virtuous, and happy people, we will be a poor, hard-hearted miserable people, fit only to be ruled by the iron hand of Lincoln's despotism. From these dreadful consequences there is no escape except in disunion, and disunion is death -- death to all our hopes, death to the government, death to the cause of civil liberty on the American continent.

  Now, gentlemen, let us turn from this gloomy prospect, and examine, for a short time, the consequences that will follow the election of General McClellan. He is a Union man -- an unconditional Union man. The leading idea of his Administration will be the preservation of the Union? He says in his letter of acceptance: "The Union is the one condition of peace. We ask no more." And in the same letter he says: "The re-establishment of the Union in all its integrity is and must continue to be the indispensable condition in any settlement." He further says: "The Union trust must be preserved at all hazards." He will adopt a wise and liberal policy, restore to the people all their rights, and set the constitution up again as the supreme law of the land, for he holds that the constitution is sufficient for any emergency. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of election will be revived; all the rights of the States will be revived; the great principles of civil liberty will triumph; martial law will be removed from our State; the writ of habeas corpus will come back; the prison doors will fly open, and your imprisoned citizens will come forth, those that are righteous and innocent returning to the enjoyment of liberty and to the bosom their families again, and those that are wicked and guilty going to the civil courts for trial and punishment; law and order will be restored, and the love of the people for their government and laws will be made manifest; and, last but not least, the owners of all private property that has been taken for public use will be paid for it. In addition to this, the military will again become the friends and protectors of the people; your banished citizens will be brought home; and public confidence will be restored and secured. This course will make the people of the loyal States united and happy once more. Then the work of the reconciliation of the South begins. All the confiscation acts will be repealed; all the abolition proclamations will be revoked, and African slavery become again exclusively a creature of the States, and subject to State law and State government alone, there to abide its time until, in the course of Christian civilization, a free and enlightened people, without force or violence, shall, prompted by their own minds, act upon the question for themselves. The people of the South will be distinctly told that they shall have all their rights, and every guarantee for their future observance that can be  reasonably desired. McClellan will say to the whole South what he said to the people of Western Virginia in May, 1861, when he took his victorious army there. I will read the closing part of that address:


  I have ordered troops to cross the Ohio river. They come as your friends and as your brothers, -- as enemies only to the armed rebels who are preying upon you. Your home, your families, and your property are safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously respected, notwithstanding all that has been said by traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signalized by interference with your slaves. Understand one thing clearly. Not only will we abstain from all such interference, but we will on the contrary, with an iron hand, crush any attempt at insurrection on their part.


  These noble sentiments of McClellan will fill the Southern people with admiration, as they did the people of Western Virginia at the time, and, having confidence, in the integrity as well as the justice and mercy of the man, their old love of the Union will revive; they will come back by States over Davis's head, if he does not prevent it by coming back at their head.

  Gentlemen, the true issue in this election is McClellan, Union, and Liberty, or Lincoln, Disunion, and Slavery.