Thursday, July 23, 2009

The "World's Convention" of abolitionists targets Texas

Having explained why he accepted the position of Secretary of State in March 1844, John C. Calhoun, speaking in the Senate on February 12, 1847, discussed why he then (in 1844) viewed the annexation of Texas as essential. Calhoun asserted that he had information indicating that representatives of a “World’s Convention” of abolitionists (this is apparently a reference to a convention held during June 1843 in Exeter by the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society for the Abolition of Slavery and the Slave-Trade Throughout the World), had urged the British government to intervene in Texas “to aim a fatal blow at slavery”:
But circumstances made action on it [annexation] inevitable. I ascertained [apparently in 1843], from sources perfectly reliable, that at the World’s Convention, the American delegation suggested to the Abolitionists of England, that then was the time to act, and if they wished to aim a fatal blow at slavery, it must be in Texas, and in order to do that, England must obtain control there.

I received information – I will not say official – but from a quarter in which there could be no mistake, that an interview had taken place between Lord Aberdeen and a deputation of the World’s Convention. I was then at home in South Carolina, and immediately transmitted to the Secretary of State [Abel P. Upshur] that information, accompanied by my opinion that it demanded instant attention. I suppose that letter and my communication formed one of the reasons for the movement then made for annexation.

Calhoun’s unnamed informant was likely Duff Green. President Tyler had sent Green as an unofficial agent to France in the Fall of 1841 and to London in the Spring of 1843. For those of you who are not familiar with him, Green was, as they say, a piece of work. Norma Lois Peterson provides an amusing summary of this quirky man. The decision to send Green to Europe, Prof. Peterson notes,
was a strange and unwise choice. Green, who had an overly inflated ego, considered himself a “master manipulator” and an expert in international affairs. In reality, he an irresponsible and dangerous person to have abroad . . .. Green was a Calhoun man. His daughter was married to Calhoun’s son, but their political ties were more important than the relationship by marriage. During the nullification crisis of the early 1830s, Green, then editor of the United States Telegraph, had given his complete support to the South Carolinian . . . [and] they were close personal friends.

The evidence, Prof. Peterson believes, suggests that Calhoun and Upshur pushed Green’s appointment, and that he fed them the same sorts of information that he reported to Tyler:
In all probability, Calhoun, through Upshur, suggested Green for the European assignment, and although Green went as Tyler’s personal representative, he kept Calhoun and Upshur as well, if not better, informed of his “observations” than he did the president. Green’s deep desire was to see Calhoun in the White House.

What information was Green feeding to Tyler – and presumably to Calhoun as well? Prof. Peterson summarizes it as follows:
During the spring and summer of 1843, Green constantly warned about a British plot to abolish slavery in Texas, not from any humanitarian motivation, but in the hope of checking the expansion of the United States and fostering the dissolution of the Union. With a few alterations from time to time, Green’s scenario . . . went as follows: Britain would encourage Texas, with promises of interest-free loans and support against Mexico, to emancipate all slaves in the Lone Star Republic. With Texas a free area, runaway slaves from the United States would seek sanctuary there. American slave owners would attempt to recover their property. Border incidents would occur, but the government in Washington, increasingly controlled by the North, would refuse to aid the slave owners. The South would have no choice but to secede from the Union.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails