James O. Broadhead to William F. Broadhead
February 7, 1858

James O. Broadhead writes a letter to his younger brother, William, affirming his decision to leave UVA due to its overwhelmingly secessionist attitude. 

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Bowling Green Feb. 7. 1858. 

Dear Willie: 

            I think it a wise conclusion you have come to, not to remain at the University longer than the present session, unless you should conclude to study something else than the law. I think it one of the best schools in the county for the study of the languages and the sciences, but your opinion about the law is just the same that I at first expressed to you. After all a man must depend mainly upon himself in the study of the law, and where he has access to a good library, and opportunities and incentives to habits of steady application, he will learn most readily the elementary principles of the law. There being I suppose but little difference in the schools where these advantages are equal. But upon the subject of Constitutional law I have no faith in the doctrine taught at the University of Virginia. The Federalist is a good book, and if they would stick to that and the Constitution it would do. But the Resolutions of 98 & 99 are a jargon of nonsense, and the lectures of the professors on that subject but little better & when I speak thus of the Resolutions of 98 & 99 I mean no disrespect to the memory of Mr. Madison — but I allude to the Virginia interpretation of them, which Mr. Madison repudiated in his letter to Mr. Everett in 1833, and I doubt not, he was ashamed that he should have drafted resolutions, which should bear such an interpretation. 

            Since the receipt of your letter I have seen the Resolutions of the Washington and Columbian Societies. The latter are dignified and manly, and show that they were drafted by a gentleman and a patriot. Those of the Washington Society are peurile, ridiculous, and insulting. They say in effect to Mr. Davis “We have invited you; since the invitation, however, we have found out that you are a scoundrel, a thief and a vagabound — we had rather not have you come, indeed we would advise you not to come, but honor and chivalry forbid our recalling the invitation!” If they believe what they say, let them recall the invitation at once, and tell him that they were mistaken in the man — they are not bound by any principles of honor to extend courtesy to a cut throat or a robber, after they have found out his true character. What would be thought of a chivalrous & honorable Southern Gentleman, who would thus act towards a guest whom he had invited to his house? An ignorant slave of his who should mistake the counterfeit presentment of chivalry for the genuine steel, might very well make such a mistake, and become the subject of ludicrous merriment on the part of his master, but I can hardly believe that his master if a full grown man and having his wits about him, would make so consummate an ass of himself, even out of spite. 

            The South, however, on this subject of slavery is perfectly mad — and there is no telling to what excesses of folly, the Southern people will permit themselves to be led.

            It is by just such conduct as they have exhibited towards Mr. Davis that they are making themselves the laughing stock of their adversaries, and alienating from them the sympathies of the conservative men of the country. Who believes that Davis is an Abolitionist? Who believes that he would do anything to affect the relations of master and slave? Not they, themselves, not one of them. They may say so; but in their inmost hearts they don’t believe it. It may do to feed a morbid political excitement; it may help to strengthen the fortunes of a tottering party. But even as a political movement, it can do no permanent good, and as a literary exhibition, it is certainly in very bad taste to say the least of it. Suppose Mr. Davis does come — and does preach political doctrines, not very palatable to the ears of Southern Chivalry — This is an age of free discussion, and if the speaker should endeavor to inculcate error, I trust that Southern “reason is still left free to combat it” — and when this is the case Mr. Jefferson tells us that error ceases to be dangerous. 

                                                                   Your affectionate brother

                                                                                     Jas. O. Broadhead

Wm. F. Broadhead
University of Va.


James O. Broadhead to William F. Broadhead, February 7, 1858, James O. Broadhead Papers, Missouri Historical Society.