“It Is a Surrender Of the Entire Slavery Question”
On March 24, 1865, Robert Toombs wrote a letter to a friend in Virginia expressing his frustration with Jefferson Davis and the recently passed legislation that allowed the Confederate government to recruit freed slaves into the army. Toombs’s arguments closely aligns with public statements made by Howell Cobb and James A. Seddon.
Interestingly, Toombs’s letter appeared in the Augusta Chronicle in June 1865.
We have given him [Davis] all the men who would volunteer, allowed him all the men he could catch at first from eighteen to thirty-five then to forty-five, then all from seventeen to fifty. And the army is smaller to-day and less efficient than on the day the first conscript bill was passed. Now Congress have given him all the negroes, and the result will still be the same, superadded to the most fatal consequences which have ever darkened our progress.
The negro, first, is unfitted for a soldier. Secondly, if I am wrong in that, if he is capable of making a soldier, he ought to be and will be a Yankee soldier… In my opinion, the worst calamity that could befall us would be to gain our independence by the valor of our slaves, instead of our own. If we are conquered by the fortunes of war, we may save our honor and leave the cause to our descendants, who may be wiser and braver than we are and may avail themselves of the accidents of human affairs, and yet win what we are ignominiously throwing away. The day that the army of Virginia allows a negro regiment to enter their lines as soldiers they will be degraded, ruined and disgraced. Lee had just as soon have a negro as a white man in his army. So had West Point generally. Their system is, to make slaves of free men; it failed and the men ran away. Their remedy is to make freemen of slaves. That will not get far enough along to fail; it is a piece of embecile stupidity, as well as treacherous to the cause, well worthy of Davis and Lee, the base traitors from Kentucky and Missouri, &c., who have no constituents to bear, to suffer, or to be disgraced by them.
We have a plenty of men in the Southern Confederacy to whip two such revolutions, if Mr. Davis did not keep them out of the bullet department. He has more men on the pay roll not in active field service than he has muskets. And you may throw in the negroes, and not increase the army. But if you put our negroes and white men into the army together, you must and will put them on an equality; they must be under the same code, the same pay, allowances and clothing. There must be promotions for valor or there will be no morals among them. Therefore, it is a surrender of the entire slavery question.