Reign of Terror in Tennessee
William G. Brownlow

Now, sir, allow me further to say that the Union men of the border Slave States are loyal to their Government, and do not regard the election of Lincoln as any just cause for dissolving this Union. We believe that slavery had very little to do with inaugurating armed secession, which commenced at Charleston, to overthrow the United States Government: it was the loss of the offices, power, and patronage of the Government by corrupt politicians and bad men in the South, who had long controlled the Government. Believing this, as we honestly do, we can never, like Mexico, inaugurate political conflicts and anarchy by armed secession. We can never agree to assist in the inauguration of a Government of conventions by armed secession, - which Government, in the case of England and her Rump Parliament, resulted in the Protectorate of Cromwell, and in France, in the military despotism of Bonaparte, and in both cases resulted in anarchy, as it is bound to do in this country if not put down by the power of the Government.

While I say this, let me say, in all candor, that if we were once convinced in the border Slave States that the Administration at Washington, and the people of the North who are backing up the Administration with men and money, contemplated the subjugation of the South or the abolishing of slavery, there would not be a Union man among us in twenty-four hours. Come what might, sink or swim, survive or perish, we would fight you to the death, and we would unite our fortunes and destinies with even these demoralized seceded States, for whose leaders and laws we have no sort of respect. But we have not believed, nor do we yet believe, that the Administration has such purposes in view. Demagogues and designing men charge it here, and by this means enlist thousands under their banner who, otherwise, would never support their wicked schemes of secession. We Union men believe that the blow was struck upon Fort Sumter to induce Virginia to go out, and to create sympathy elsewhere, and that the Administration at Washington is seeking to repossess its forts and property and to preserve its existence; and, as long as we believe this, we are for the Union and the Administration.


We are in the midst of a reign of terror in Tennessee, and where it will end, and in what, I am not able to conjecture. We vote for or against the Ordinance of Secession on the 8th of June; and, although there is a majority of the voters of the State utterly and irreconcilably opposed to Secession, I can't promise you that it will not carry. Fraud and force, and all the other appliances of Secessionism, will be brought to bear in carrying the State out of the Union. When overpowered and voted down, we shall be forced to submit. When I surrender, it will be because I can no longer help myself; but it shall be under protest, claiming the right, as a Union man, to curse this whole movement in my heart of hearts! And, whether in or out of the Union, as long as I remember it was Washington who told us, "The Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all;" and that it was Jackson who told us, "The Union, it must be preserved," - I shall offer this prayer upon the altar of my country: Mania to the brain of him who would conceive, and palsy to the arm of him who would perpetrate, the dissolution of the Union!

And, whether my humble voice is hushed in death, or my press is muzzled by foul legislation, I beg you, and all into whose hands this letter may fall, to credit no Secession falsehood which may represent me as having changed.

Editor of the Knoxville Whig.
Knoxville Whig, May 18, 1861.


Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession by W. G. Brownlow
George W. Childs, Philadelphia, 1862, pages 109-111, 112-113.