"You can never convert the free sons of the soil into vassals": Judah P. Benjamin and the threat of union, 1852-1861
Master of Arts (MA)
As one of the premier legal minds in the Senate, having twice declined presidential nominations to the Supreme Court, Judah Benjamin’s rhetoric contains the South’s most sophisticated and clear-minded legal expositions on constitutional theory, state sovereignty, and republican government since the writings of John C. Calhoun. A well-known moderate, Benjamin’s national political career also reveals the effect of extremism on his own political thinking, while offering a limited perspective into the shifting attitude of the Deep South as well. Benjamin’s judicious speeches counseled northerners that southern views of liberty and sovereignty were inexplicably linked to slavery. With measured rhetoric Benjamin argued that any attempt to regulate slavery not only imperiled southern liberty, but corrupted the original spirit of the Constitution. Beginning in 1856, as a result of the Republican Party’s emergence in national politics, Benjamin increasingly employed strident rhetoric in his speeches which embraced the political logic of secession. With Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, Benjamin not only defended secession’s logic, but encouraged its urgent execution.
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Cunningham, Geoffrey David, ""You can never convert the free sons of the soil into vassals": Judah P. Benjamin and the threat of union, 1852-1861" (2010). LSU Master's Theses. 121.
Cooper, Jr., William J.