An Incendiary Circular
Clement Laird Vallandigham of Ohio
United States House of Representatives, December 14 1859

Mr. VALLANDIGHAM. Mr. Clerk, as kindred in design, and as illustrating the compendium from which, a short time since, I read the extracts, I propose now to read from a circular which has been extensively circulated throughout the northern, western, and southern States of this Union, and which contains the plan of associations to be formed in the northern and western states for the purpose of carrying on armed hostilities against a portion of this Confederacy. From a circular, a copy of which I received sometime in April or May last, I read the following:

"When a human being is set upon by a robber, ravisher, murderer, or tyrant of any kind, it is the duty of the bystanders to go to his or her rescue, by force, if need be.
"On this principle, it is the duty of the non-slaveholders of this country, in their private capacity as individuals - without asking permission or waiting the movements of the Government - to go to the rescue of the slaves from the hands of their oppressors.
"Holding these opinions, we propose to act upon them; and we invite all other citizens of the States to join us in the enterprise. To enable them to judge of its feasibility, we lay before them the following programme of measures which, we think, ought to be adopted, and would be successful:
"1. The formation of associations, throughout the country, of all persons who are willing to pledge themselves publicly to favor the enterprise, and render assistance and support, of any kind, to it.
"4. Raising money and military equipments.
"5. Forming and disciplining such military companies as may volunteer for actual service.
"6. Detaching the non-slaveholders of the South from all alliance with the slaveholders, and inducing them to cooperate with us, by appeals to their safety, interest, honor, justice, and humanity.
"7. Informing the slaves (by emissaries to be sent among them, or through the non-slaveholders of the South,) of the plan of emancipation, that they may be prepared to cooperate at the proper time.
"8. To encourage emigration to the South of persons favoring the movement.
"9. When the preceding preliminaries shall have sufficiently prepared the way, then to land military forces (at numerous points at the same time) in the South, who shall raise the standard of freedom, and call to it the slaves and such free persons as may be willing to join it.
"And we anticiapte that the public avowal of these measures, and our open and zealous preparation for them will have the effect, within some reasonable time - we trust within a few years at furthest - to detach the Government and the country at large from the interests of the slaveholders; to destroy the security and value of slave property; to annihilate the commercial credit of slaveholders, and finally to accomplish the extinction of slavery. We hope it may be without blood.
"If it be objected that this scheme proposes war, we confess the fact. It does propose war - private war, indeed - but, nevertheless, war, if that should prove necessary. And our answer to the objection is, that in revolutions of this nature it is necessary that private individuals should take the first steps."

Mr. ASHMORE,. With the permission of the gentleman, I desire to make a statement just at this point.

Mr. VALLANDIGHAM. In a moment. I will read this first:

"Our plan then is -
"1. To make war (openly or secretly, as circumstances may dictate,) upon the property of the slaveholders and their abettors - not for its destruction, if that can easily be avoided, but to convert it to the use of the slaves. If it cannot be thus converted, then we advise its destruction. Teach the slaves to burn their masters' buildings, to kill their cattle and horses, to conceal or destroy farming utensils, to abandon labor in seed-time and harvest, and let crops perish. Make slavery unprofitable in this way if it can be done in no other.
"2. To make slaveholders objects of derision and contempt, by FLOGGING THEM whenever they shall be guilty of flogging their slaves."

That circular has a note attached to it, upon which was to be written the name of some non-slaveholder in the South, with whom corresponce is to be opened for the purpose of carrying out the bloody designs of this association.

Mr. ASHMORE. Mr. Clerk, to show that the people of the free States, or a portion of them - of those banded together for the purpose of making assaults upon the institution of slavery - are, at this very moment, carrying out a part of that programme, I avail myself of the courtesy of the gentleman from Ohio to announce on the floor of this House that, at this very time, their emissaries are at this work in South Carolina, and that we have now in jail, at the court-house at Greenville, placed there only a few days since, one of the vilest and most infamous creatures that ever defiled the face of this fair earth, who was caught with these books in his hand, and who had distributed no less than ten or twelve copies of it among the negroes and poor white men of that district.

Mr. COBB, (in his seat.) Well, they'll hang him.

Mr. ASHMORE. Yes, sir; they will hang him, and we will hang any such men who come into that congressional district. [Applause in the galleries.] I, sir, come here from, perhaps, the most conservative and Union-loving district of South Carolina, and I have myself been taunted with submissionism in my native State and with being too much a Union man; since I have taken my seat upon this floor, such has been the work of these vile emissaries in South Carolina. I am glad of an opportunity to state the fact without intending to engage in discussion. Only a few days since, this emissary of these Black Republicans, Harrold Wyllis, was at his work when it was announced to some of the leading gentlemen of that (Greenville) district that such a mischievous and infamous attempt was being made to arouse the slave population of the district and array the non-slaveholder against the slaveholder; they immediately went to work and ferreted out in a single day seven copies of that infamous Helper book - the work of an infamous renegade thief from our sister State, North Carolina - [applause in the galleries] - a man who dare not show his face upon the soil which gave him birth. Sir, he whose heart is so black that he could assail the mother who bore him is blacker than I can paint. [Renewed applause.] Yes, sir; and when the effects of this emissary were searched, not only were there copies of that work found in his possession, but an extensive correspondence was discovered between him and various persons in different portions of the North, and he had a placard over his mantle-piece setting forth in large and glaring leters that any and all could be supplied with it free of charge and free of cost by applying at the office of the Tribune, in the city of New York. He went about his work secretly and at the midnight hour; whilst others were asleep, whilst all the honest men of the country were wrapped in slumber, he was prowling through the highways and by ways of the land distributing this book to the non-slaveholding whites and the negroes. And let me tell gentlemen on the Republican side of the house that the men who came forward and announced that this mischievous work was going on were non-slaveholders. A good old gentleman, whom I have known from my infancy, and who never owned a slave in his life was the first to denounce the rascally treason attempted to be perpetrated. [Applause in the galleries.] The man, Wyllis, was immediately seized and the results which I have stated followed; and, sir, he has made revelations which I am not yet prepared to make upon this floor and which, when the time comes, I will make and fortify with the testimony of the best men in the good old district of Greenville - the Union district of South Carolina.


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session, New Series...No. 10, Thursday, December 15, 1859, page 160
New Series...No. 11, Tuesday, December 20, 1859, page 161