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[Detail] Illustration of the shield of Virginia, from the eighteenth century

Civil War and Reconstruction

The Capital and the Bay contains a number of intriguing documents about the Civil War and Reconstruction. A particularly interesting case study might be made of Maryland, a border state where opinion was bitterly divided. "The Inaugural Address of Thomas H. Hicks, Governor of Maryland," delivered in 1858, identified many issues facing the state and the union and put forth the following position regarding secession:

The people of Maryland have never listened to suggestions of disunion from southern States, and have denied all appeals to her sympathies from them, as steadily as they have refused all sectional association with States in the north, whose misguided councils have forgotten their allegiance to the Union, or attempted to deny the constitutional rights of their equals. The people of this State yet know of no grievances for which disunion is a remedy, and they have always, in the words of Washington, discountenanced whatever might suggest even the slightest suspicion that Union can, in any event, be abandoned. Her people will hearken to no suggestion inimical to the slaveholding States, for she herself is one of them. They will listen to no suggestion inimical to union with the non-slaveholding States, for she also has interests identical with theirs; and more than any other State, by reason of her position and the variety of her interests, is deeply concerned in the preservation of the Federal Union.

(Page 7,"The Inaugural Address of Thomas H. Hicks, Governor of Maryland")

Read the speech and then search the collection for arguments supporting secession, preparing a "response" to the inaugural address arguing that Maryland should consider secession.

The bitter divisions of opinion in Maryland are revealed in a number of documents in the collection, from such humorous poems as "A.D. 1862, or the Volunteer Zouave in Baltimore" to an account of a rumored assassination plot against Lincoln in 1861 ("Baltimore and the 19th of April 1861"). The division of opinion also affected families, not only in the South but the North, as recounted by New Yorker Marian Campbell Gouverneur, who nonetheless saw in Maryland extraordinary divisions:

. . . The spirit of toleration was so utterly lacking in both the North and the South that even those allied by ties of blood were estranged, and a spirit of bitter resentment and crimination everywhere prevailed. This state of feeling, under the circumstances, was doubtless inevitable, but it emphasized better than almost anything else, except bloodshed itself, the truth of General Sherman's declaration that "War is Hell!" The animosities engendered by the war ruptured family ties and familiar associations in Maryland much more completely than in the North.

(Pages 313 and 314, "Chapter XIII The Civil War and Life in Maryland" from "As I Remember")

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The case study of Maryland could continue with examination of "Address of Hon. Christopher C. Cox, Lieutenant Governor, Delivered in the Senate Chamber, Annapolis, January 10, 1866," in which the lieutenant governor congratulates the Senate for abolishing slavery in Maryland, saying in part:

Accept, then, my salutations, Senators, upon the new attitude taken by our dear old Commonwealth. Other States have gradually emancipated their slaves, and thus relieved themselves of the disadvantages of the institution, but Maryland has accomplished the whole work at once. She has struck down, with one blow, the collossal evil in her midst, and advanced, untrammelled, upon the open path to honor and success. Let us reflect that we have entered into a field of labor demanding all our wisdom, energy and perseverance. If we would act with patriotism, philosophy and statemanship, we must meet the difficulties before us promptly, comprehensively, honestly. In this march of freedom there must be no step backward. To recede would be worse than ignominy. Order, prosperity and progress will succeed to patient perseverance in the right course—anarchy, adversity and continued strife, as certainly to a policy of compromise and vacillation. We have wiped from our escutcheon the defacing blot of slavery—the incubus which has paralyzed our members and stifled our resources, has been lifted off. We have taken a brave, manly, open stand for human liberty, and we must not cease the struggle until we have laid deep in the soil of our State the foundations, strong and broad, of enduring tranquillity and ever-expanding prosperity.

(Page 4, “Address of Hon. Christopher C. Cox, Lieutenant Governor, Delivered in the Senate Chamber, Annapolis, January 10, 1866”)

Issues related to Reconstruction also affected Maryland, as evidenced by two speeches given just two weeks later by Montgomery Blair. Blair, president of a group of Marylanders opposing registration laws, argued:

I say there can be no motive in proscribing the white race of this country but to put up the blacks. And when it is attempted to do so; when there is no other question but whether the South shall be ruled by the power at the North through the negroes, and a despotism established as fierce and formidable as that of Napoleon's, through universal suffrage—his was established that way—by degrading suffrage; by making it contemptable; by clothing persons with it who are the very tools of despotism, who have never known what it is to exercise an independent thought—what other object can these aristocrats have but to supersede our form of government, in proscribing the men who made it, and whose civilization they seek to supersede. No, my friends, that is the only question…

(Pages 7 and 8, “Proscription in Maryland”)

  • Can you infer from Blair's speeches what law or laws he is opposing?
  • What are his arguments against the laws? What do you think the arguments for the laws were?
  • How do Blair's speeches help you understand the popularity of the Democratic Party in the Southern states following the Civil War?

The study of Maryland throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction period could be concluded by examining the "Address Delivered at Philadelphia on the 19th of October, 1876," extolling the state's history as part of the Centennial Exposition held that year.

  • What has the speaker, John Van Lear Findlay, chosen to emphasize?
  • Ten years after the Civil War, what is said about Maryland's role in that recent conflict?
  • Why do you think the speaker made the choices that he did?

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