Address of Charles B. Calvert to His Constituents
August 19, 1862

Sixth Congressional District of Maryland U.S. Representative Charles B. Calvert defends his political actions by claiming that he is and always has been one of the "Unconditional Union men." He encourages his constituents to follow suit. He adds that entangled with his reverence for the Union are his fear and anger concerning abolitionists' efforts to circumvent fugitive slave laws and enlist other politicians like Lincoln to work with them toward emancipation. However, he finds these frustrations secondary to the threat of disunion.


In the subjoined Address the present able Representative of the Sixth Congressional District in Maryland appeals to his constituents in terms which, by their frankness and earnestness, bespeak the sincerity of strong convictions of public duty.

To the People of the Sixth Congressional District of Maryland.

FELLOW-CITIZENS: Having been chosen to represent you in the Thirty-seventh Congress, and believing that a Representative should always have that full and free interchange of opinions with his constituents which will keep them advised of the tendency of passing events in the legislation of the country, and, at the same time, apprize him of their views of the effect of the various measures of Government upon their immediate interests, I propose to give you a brief statement of my observations (during the short period I have occupied the position assigned me by your kind suffrages) upon the acts of the acts of the Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government. I must, however, be excused for premising that I was elected as an Unconditional Union man, and it is well known to the whole district that my determination on that point was maliciously misrepresented and successfully used by those opposed to me to deprive me of the support of many friends of long standing. In place of defining my true position, as an uncompromising friend of the Union and the Constitution, they undertook to class me among the warm supporters of the Republican party, to which I should not have so much demurred if my opponents had, at the same time, admitted themselves the advocates and supporters of the Southern Confederacy, but, like many adroit thieves, they attempted to raise the hue and cry against me in order to draw off the public gaze from their own odious and criminal acts. Before the last Presidential contest all parties professed themselves Unconditional Union men, and the very men who are now waging this war to overthrow the Constitution and Government were the loudest in declaring their attachment to both. I, therefore, have not changed, but occupy the same position I have always held, and my opponents are the parties who have changed front in this contest by giving aid and comfort to those who are striving to destroy a Government for which they, but a short time since, professed so much love and devotion. Discarding all the metaphysical reasonings of those who desire to mystify the public as well as themselves on this subject, I maintain there can be but two parties to this contest. It is true there may be different opinions on collateral questions, but when brought to a direct issue every man must take his position either for sustaining or overthrowing the present Government. The Unconditional Union men are in favor of re-establishing the “Union as it was and the Constitution as it is,” and all others (whether Secessionists, Conditional Union men, Republicans, Abolitionists, or by whatever other name they may choose to call themselves) are opposed to those issues. I glory in belonging to the first of those divisions, and I envy no man his conscience or his feelings who opposes such principles. I had so clearly defined my position before the election that I had a right to infer that all those who supported me coincided with me in the opinion that any and every measure which was necessary to suppress the rebellion and preserve the Union and the Constitution unimpaired ought to receive the sanction of Congress. No one can deny that this odious, wicked, and malicious attempt to destroy the Union was commenced and has been carried on by a few reckless, designing, and disappointed politicians, who forced their States to adopt ordinances of secession in direct opposition to the often expressed determination of the majority of the people in almost every State. It is entirely unnecessary to go into any lengthy examination to show how utterly untenable is the whole doctrine of secession, as the absurdity and falsity of such a claim in behalf of one or more States is exhibited in the mere fact that the present Constitution was adopted by our predecessors because it was found impossible to administer the Government under the old confederation, where the States reserved the power in their own hands. This doctrine of the right of one State to set aside the laws of the residue and withdraw from the Union can only be maintained by those who desire to deprive the people of all power in order that they may monopolize it in their own hands, and the truth of the assertion is fully exemplified in the action of the disloyal men of Maryland, who, although overwhelmingly defeated in all their contests before the people, still continue their opposition to the will of the majority. It is a doctrine which never could have originated in any State, save South Carolina, where the aristocracy have always ruled with an iron rod, and it will be found upon examination that it is almost solely supported by the aristocracy and wealth not only of this country but also of England, whereas the masses of both countries oppose it, and rightly too, if they wish to preserve the semblance of liberty.

         Mr. Lincoln was constitutionally elected President of the United States, and should have received the support of all good citizens, so long as he confined his action within the powers conferred on him by the Constitution and Laws of the country, and no member of any department or branch of the Government had a right to resign the trust which had been confided to him and forswear his allegiance to and assist to overthrow a Government which he had solemnly sworn to support and defend. Those who have committed these acts should be held up to the execrations of the world as the authors of all the calamities which have befallen us, and at their doors should be laid the denunciations of all who have suffered on either side in this dreadful war. In July, 1861, President Lincoln, in his message to Congress, reiterated his determination to be governed by the Constitution and Laws in his treatment of the Southern States, and the House of Representatives adopted, with but two dissenting votes, the following resolution, offered by Mr. Crittenden, viz:

         “Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against the Constitutional Government and in arms around the Capital; that, in this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest, or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired, and that so soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.”

         I did not hesitate to give my earnest support to such measures as were considered necessary to carry into effect these objects; and I suppose it will be generally conceded that (without the adoption of such a platform of principles for the conduct of the war at that time) the Government could never have raised the enormous army which the enunciation of those principles brought into the field. It is my firm conviction that, if the President and General-in-Chief had been permitted to conduct the war for these objects alone, we should have been enjoying peace long since; but Congress had scarcely convened before the abolition wing of the Republican party commenced that interference which induced the General-in-Chief, against his better judgment, to risk the battle of Bull Run, which resulted so disastrously to the Federal arms. The persistent and impertinent intermeddling of these parties, it is believed, at last forced the hero of two successful wars to resign a position which, under existing circumstances, he could no longer hold with honor to himself or benefit to the country; and to this one act more than any other are to be ascribed the disasters which have since befallen us. Having succeeded in driving from the service of the country that great military chieftain, whose very name was a tower of strength, these conspirators were emboldened to carry on further intrigues to undermine and supplant meritorious officers, in order to place in position incompetent and reckless adventurers and politicians.

         The question will be asked by every inquiring mind, why President Lincoln yielded to this clamor, and suffered such men to control him in the conduct of the war and the reply to the question is contained in the following quotation from his appeal to the Border State members: “The pressure in this direction is still upon me, and is increasing.” This same “pressure” has, I have no doubt, induced the President, against his own convictions, to sanction many other measures, introduced and carried through Congress by the radical wing of the Republican party, and has had the effect of destroying the confidence of the great body of conservative men in the firmness of purpose of the Executive. His appeal to the Border States members presents the humiliating spectacle of the President being compelled to yield his own opinions to gratify those rabid fanatics who desire to convert this war into a grand emancipation scheme; and it is a sad misfortune to the country that he should have suffered himself to be driven by such men from the high position he at first assumed for conducting the war, which was endorsed by all but two members of the House of Representatives of the Thirty-seventh Congress, by the passage of the Crittenden resolution, on the 22d of July, 1861. If the President had resisted that slavishpressure in the commencement, he might have lost some of his PRETENDED rabid negro friends, but he would have gained twice that number from the conservative men of the whole country, and we should have been saved the melancholy exhibition of his admission, in the face of the whole country, that he was under such pressure that he was compelled to appeal to the Border States to relieve him, by uniting in an Utopian scheme which was supported by the Republican party until it became necessary to make any appropriation for carrying it into effect, when they suddenly found that “circumstances alter cases.”

         I believe the President acted in good faith in making the proposition, but the bill which he sent to Congress for carrying into effect the scheme would have been entirely worthless to those for whose benefit it was drafted; for the reason that bonds issued under such circumstances, and with such conditions, could not have been negotiated in any market, and therefore would have been useless.

         The Border State men have just grounds to complain that the President should ask them to make these sacrifices, at a time when he is daily yielding more and more to the fanatical influence of counsellors who boast that they would override the Constitution and the Union to accomplish their cherished scheme of universal emancipation.

         Slavery is an institution over which the General Government has no power or control. It belongs exclusively to the States where the institution exists to regulate and control it, and any attempt of the Executive or Congress to interfere with or limit its exercise in any loyal State where it already exists should be opposed by those States. The passage of the bill for the emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia was, to say the least of it, a breach of faith to the State of Maryland; for it must be admitted by every one that Maryland never would have yielded her property except upon an implied understanding that the condition of slavery should not be changed within the District ceded without the consent of the State, or in conformity with the action of the State herself. Admitting, for argument, the constitutional right to pass a bill for such a purpose, Congress certainly possesses no power to deprive the owners of their property without justcompensation, and therefore the compensation fixed by the act itself renders it unconstitutional.

         While on this subject, I beg to allude to the great losses which you have sustained by what I suppose the President terms “the friction and abrasion of the war.” In July, 1861, on my application, Gen. Mansfield, with the approval of the President, issued a general order forbidding all military commanders from receiving into their camps any negro slaves, or permitting them to accompany the troops on the march. If this order had been observed and rigidly enforced, most of your losses would not have occurred; but it has been universally disregarded, and in many cases insultingly denounced by some of the VERY FEW abolitionists who are found in the army.

         Again, although the fugitive slave law has been of late nominally enforced in the District, still it has been violently obstructed and evaded by the acts of certain officials, who have concealed and assisted many to escape its penalties; and it is not[oriou]s that the military authorities of Alexandria have taken from the civil authorities slaves who had been delivered to their masters according to law; and, furthermore, the same military authority has informed the civil authorities of the town that no slaves shall be returned to their owners in Maryland. This is peculiarly oppressive, when you consider that you are paying taxes on three-fifths of these very slaves for the support of the war; and, furthermore, the quota of Maryland in a draft will also be based on three-fifths of these escaped fugitives. The confiscation and emancipation bills passed by Congress are gross and palpable violations of the Constitution, but they will remain as dead letters on the statute-book, as they never can be enforced.

         Having expressed my honest convictions relative to the acts of the Executive and Congress, it is proper that I should at the same time indicate the course which I shall pursue for the remainder of the term for which I was elected; and, in doing so, I feel compelled to say that neither these unjust and unwarrantable acts of our own Government, nor any thing that I have seen of the acts of the Southern Confederacy, have in the least abated my abhorrence and detestation of this accursed rebellion and its authors, or changed my determination to support every constitutional measure for its suppression. We must look to the future to do us justice, but until the rebellion is suppressed and the Constitution and laws [are] enforced over all the States of this Union we have no future to look to. I therefore urge upon you to forget your petty grievances and losses, which are nothing when compared with the utter desolation with which you would have been overwhelmed if Maryland had been driven, like some of her sister States, to unite in a rebellion against a Government which had uniformly protected her in all her rights, merely to gratify the diabolical schemes and ambitious designs of disappointed demagogues.

         Let us, as Marylanders, cling to the principles of HENRY CLAY, (always the favorite of Maryland,) and adopt as our motto his declaration in 1850: “If Kentucky to-morrow unfurls the banner of resistance, never will I fight under that banner. I owe a paramount allegiance to the whole Union, a subordinate one to my own State.” Where is the old Clay Whig among you who will not subscribe to this doctrine?                            



Printed in National Intelligencer, August 19, 1862.