Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
THIS PAGE HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Union or Secession
  • "Curse their Wicked obstinacy"
  • "Curse their Wicked obstinacy"
On January 19, 1861, a Pennsylvania native residing in Richmond expressed his frustration with national leaders, particularly Republicans, for endangering the Union.
Related documents:
  • "Troublous times are upon us"
« Return to Virginians Debate and Take Sides

"Curse their Wicked obstinacy"

Jacob Bechtel to George Bechtel, January 19, 1861, Jacob H. Bechtel Papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

On January 19, 1861, Jacob Bechtel, a Pennsylvania native residing in Richmond cursed the "Wicked obstinacy" of the nation's political leaders, particularly Republicans, for endangering the Union. He criticized President-elect Abraham Lincoln for saying nothing specific about his plans, and he criticized Congress for failing to adopt the compromise proposals of Kentucky Senator John Jordan Crittenden or heed the advice of Pennsylvania Senator William Bigler, a proslavery Democrat. Bechtel perceived that the conflict over slavery was the cause of the sectional crisis. " We ask only our rights," he wrote to his brother in Philadelphia. "We ask that the North Cease to Meddle With our social relations— Slavery to the North is immaterial In the South it is Vital."

Jacob Bechtel to George Bechtel, January 19, 1861, Jacob H. Bechtel Papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Richmond Jan 19 1861
Dear George,
I feel that I am Owing you a letter, but scarcely know how to pen a reply. We are all Well again at Home thank God! the Cruel Cough having Moderated—We have them for Notwithstanding the troublous times, contrived to get our regular Meals three times a day which is More than Many poor Souls, Can say and the Number Will be increased I fear instead of diminished, before the Winters Out.— What in the Name of all thats Good do those stubborn Mulish Black republicans Mean at Washington—sitting still, Making No Move at Compromise, No Effort to re-assure the anxious Country, but quietly suffering state after state to go out, rather than speak one Word of Comfort.— I do Curse them from my very Soul when I Contemplate the awful Crisis they have brought upon the Country, and are still bringing by their determined resistance to all plans of pacification,—There was Mr Crittendens Bill for instance!— What Could have been fairer! Hundreds of Conservative Men here in Virginia held their breath, and Waiting to hail the first glimpse of returning dawn,—But what was the result, Defeated!
What difference did it Make to them how Much farther South, slavery Might be Carried, provided their Nostrils Were not offended—No! they have fully Made up their Minds to let the Union slide—and to drive the South to the only alternative, Secession! Every days delay Widens the breach, and yet they heed it Not! O that the people might speak again through the ballot Box. Ere it be forever too late.—I do sincerely hope that Senator Biglers Motion May prevail to refer it back to the people.—While our Negroes are in the Midst of Comfort and plenty, how Many poor honest White Men are at this Very time starving—and starving too when their representatives at Washington might by speaking the Word, heal all our differences, and give peace, restore Confidence & renew the palsied industry of the Nation— Curse their Wicked obstinacy say I.— A fearful reckoning awaits them.—Perhaps they look forward to the fourth of March next when the sword and purse Will be at their Command, and Employ force, Well, let them try it, & instantly as from a Millions of Swords Will leap from their scabbards to welcome the invaders to Bloody Graves.
You may perhaps think that I have lost all love for my Native state Not So! She can never become the tool of oppressors— We ask only our rights, We ask that the North Cease to Meddle With our social relations—
Slavery to the North is immaterial In the South it is Vital.— Besides the North has No business to Meddle With it.— In Electing Lincoln, they have said as Much as that Slavery is to be Extinguished and to this End We have seized on the power to do it— What difference whence the attack proceeds—does it lessen the force of the blow that it Comes from those who should be our Bretheren?
No More at present from
Yours affectionately
JACOB
Remember Me to your Wife— I often think of her and wish we Could be nearer.