The Wide Awakes

Louis T. Wigfall of Texas
Senate, December 6 1860

In the State in which I live during the last summer there were four towns that I know of, county sites, burned smooth to the ground. There were fourteen other settlements that were burned down. Strychnine was brought and given to our negroes, for the purpose of poisoning their masters. An association called "The Mystic Red" was entered into by members of the Methodist Church North and the John-Brown men; and their purpose was to carry out the irrepressible conflict, to burn our towns, burn up the stores of our merchants, burn up the mills, to bring free-soil Northern capital in and thus get possession of Texas, and make it a free State, in order, as they said, to belt us round with free States, to starve us out or cause us (as has been said by one whose language I seldom quote) like poisoned rats, to die in our holes.

This is what you call union and fraternal affection. Why, sir, it is the result of that Helper book indorsed by yourselves. It is the result of the preachings and the teachings of the Senator from New York. It is the result of the preachings and teachings of other Black Republican leaders. It is the result of the preachings and teachings of your followers or pretended followers of Christ. In your schools you teach your children to hate us. In your pulpits you teach it as a religious duty. Upon the hustings you teach it. Your eighteen Northern non-slaveholding States nominate two of the most fanatical of your sect as candidates for President and Vice-President. You elect them; and now you tell us they shall be inaugurated. Previously to the election and to the anticipated inauguration you organized a Praetorian guard. The Senator from New York told his John-Brown, Wide-Awake Praetorians that their services could not be dispensed with after the election; that they would be needed to secure the fruits of the victory. One-half million of men uniformed and drilled, and the purpose of their organization to sweep the country in which I live with fire and sword ---

SENATOR SEWARD. I cannot tell what there has been which could be perverted or misunderstood so as to imply that I have ever said or intimated that the Wide-Awakes were to be kept organized, disciplined, and uniformed, or associated at all to secure the fruits of this victory. I think I may say safely that I never could have delivered anything which could have borne such a construction.

SENATOR WIGFALL. Mr. President, the denial of the Senator, of course, is all that I could ask. I saw him so reported, and have seen it frequently. This Wide-Awake association has itself produced an immense deal of excitement and bitter feeling. Whether the Senator from New York said what has been ascribed to him or not would not be a matter of any moment further than he is concerned. That he did not say it I am now, of course, convinced. But that this pretorian band is organized; that its members do undergo military drill; that it is a military organization, no man who has looked upon them, as I did this last summer, and heard their regular military tramp, does or can doubt.


Great Debates in American History, Volume Five, pages 353-354
Current Literature Publishing Company, New York, 1913