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1865 March 25: A Message from Georgia’s Governor Brown

March 28, 2015

The following speech by Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown took up most of the front page of the March 25, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.  The headings were added by the Press’ editor.  Due to its length, it has been split between today’s posting and tomorrow’s.

The Rebel Governor Brown’s Message.

The following highly interesting extracts are from the recent message of Gov. Brown of Georgia :


If all the sons of Georgia under arms in other States, of which nearly fifty regiments were in Virginia, besides those in the Carolinas, Florida, and Tennessee, had been permitted to meet the foe upon her own sod, without other assistance, Gen.  Sherman’s [William T. Sherman] army could never have passed from her mountains to her seaboard, and destroyed their property and their homes.  He had nearly four hundred miles to march thro’ an enemy’s country ;  he was entirely dependent upon his wagon train which he carried with him for a supply of ammunition, without the possibility of replenishing after what he had was consumed.  Had he been resisted from the start by a competent force, and compelled to fight, his ordinance stores must soon have been exhausted, and he forced to an unconditional surrender.  Such another opportunity to strike the enemy a stunning blow will not probably occur during the war.


The administration [the Confederate administration], by its unfortunate policy, having wasted our strength and reduced our armies, and being unable to get freemen into the field as conscripts, and unwilling to accept them in organization with officers of their own choice, will, it is believed, soon resort to the policy of filling them up by the conscription of slaves.  I am satisfied that we may profitably use slave labor, so far as it can be spared from agriculture, to do menial service in connection with the army, and thereby enable more free white men to take up arms ;  but I am quite sure any attempt to arm the slaves will be a great error.  If we expect to continue the war successfully, we are obliged to have the labor of most of them in the production of provisions.  But if this difficulty were surmounted, we cannot rely upon them as soldiers.  They are now quietly serving us at home, because they do not wish to go into the army, and they fear, if they leave us, the enemy will put them there.  If we compel them to take up arms, their whole feeling and conduct will change, and they will leave us by the thousands.  A single proclamation by President Lincoln [Abraham Lincoln]—that all who desert us after they are forced into service, and go over to him, shall have their freedom, be taken out of the army, and permitted to go into the country in his possession, and receive wages for their labor—would disband them by brigades.  Whatever may be our opinion of their normal condition or of their true interest, we cannot expect them if they remain with us, to perform deeds of heroic valor when they are fighting to continue the enslavement of their wives and children.  It is not reasonable for us to demand it of them, and we have little cause to expect the blessing of Heaven upon our efforts if we compel them to perform such a task.  If we are right, and Providence designed them for slavery, He did not design that they should be a military people.  Whenever we establish the fact that they are a military race, we destroy the whole theory that they are unfit to be free.

But it is said we should give them their freedom in case of their fidelity to our cause in the field ;  in other words, that we should give up slavery, as well as our personal liberty and State sovereignty, for independence, and should set all our slaves free if they will aid us to achieve it.  If we are ready to give up slavery, I am satisfied that we can make it the consideration for a better trade than to give it up for the uncertain aid which they might afford us in the military field.  When we arm the slaves we abandon slavery.  We can never again govern them as slaves, and make the institution profitable to ourselves or to them, after tens of thousands of them have been taught the use of arms, and spent years in the indolent indulgences of camp life.


Our financial affairs have been so unfortunately administered that our currency is worth very little in the market ;  and our public faith has been so frequently and willfully violated that it will be with great difficulty that we can re[-]inspire our people with confidence in the pledges of the government.  It is announced as the future policy of the financial department to issue no more treasury notes, and to receive nothing else in payment of public dues till the quantity is reduced to healthy circulation.  This would be beneficial to the holders of the notes.  As the armies are to be supported, however, at the cost of hundreds of millions per annum, the announcement leaves no doubt that it is to be done in a great measure by seizing property and paying for it in certificates or bonds which will not pass as currency or payment of taxes.  This would be little better than legalized robbery, and if practiced long by any government will drive the people to revolution as the only means left of throwing off intolerable burdens.


 The Lincoln dynasty [Union President Abraham Lincoln] informs us distinctly that reconstruction and subjugation are the only alternatives to be presented to us.  The present policy, if persisted in, must terminate in reconstruction either with or without subjugation.  I accuse no supporter of the administration of any such design.  But entertaining the opinions which I do of its results if I favored reconstruction, or subjugation, to both of which I am utterly opposed, I would give an earnest support to the President’s policy [Confederate President Jefferson Davis], an current mode of diminishing our armies, exhausting our resources, breaking the spirits of our people, and driving them in despair to seek refuge from a worse tyranny by placing themselves under the protection of a government which they loathe and detest, because it has wronged and tyrannized over them, destroyed their property and slaughtered their sons.  These are sad truths which it is exceedingly unpleasant to announce.  But true statesmanship requires that the ruler do the best that can be done for his people under all circumstances by which they are at time surrounded.


Discipline must be restored and enforced in our armies.  One of the reasons given by its advocates for the conscript law was, that better discipline would be maintained by giving the appointment of the officers to the President.  Results have shown the reverse to be true.  Prior to the adoption of that plan the officers selected by the troops themselves and appointed by the States, kept men in the field, and we triumphed gloriously in almost every engagement with the enemy.  Since that time the officers appointed by the President have neither maintained discipline or kept the men in the field.  If the President’s statement is reliable they have only one-third of them there.  And, I fear, the discipline of that third is loose compared with that exhibited by the Federal army in its march through this State.


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