Newspaper Editorials about Richmond Becoming Confederate Capital
Many newspapers—both in the North and South—editorialized when they learned that the Provisional Confederate Congress meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, voted on May 21, 1861, to choose Richmond, Virginia, as the capital of the recently-formed Confederate States of America. There was quite a range of reactions and opinions, as demonstrated by the following six editorials.
This comment was published by the Montgomery Mail, an Alabama newspaper that strongly opposed moving the Confederate capital from Montgomery to Richmond. Its editorial was reprinted by the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.) on May 27, 1861:
Removal of the Southern Capital
The Montgomery Mail strongly opposes the removal of the Confederate capital to Richmond, speaking of it as “an unwise expedient,” calculated “to bring the secession movement and Government into ridicule,” and adds:
“We repeat that we have faith in President Davis, and will not allow ourselves to believe that he will sanction the removal of Congress, even if Congress could be induced to vote for such a thing. It is almost certain that if Congress quits Montgomery its quitting will be held up by the Northern papers, and believed by many in Europe, as a flight of the Southern Congress from Montgomery; and the fact of going to Richmond will be held up by the same papers as only a pretext to cover up the alleged flight. The wise and safe course is for Congress to stand its ground, hold on to Montgomery, bear the heat, surrender the pleasures of a visit to Virginia, and set an example of stability and self-sacrifice that will command admiration everywhere.”
This editorial was published by the New York Herald (New York, New York) on May 27, 1861:
Still Harping upon Richmond
The Richmond Whig affects to be greatly delighted that that beautiful city is soon to become the capital of the Confederate States. The 20th of July is named as the day on which Jeff. Davis & Co. are to make it their official headquarters. We strongly suspect, however, that if those enterprising confederacy builders are in Richmond on the day indicated, they will be there as prisoners of war. Finally, we have not the remotest suspicion that they contemplate setting up their tabernacle in Richmond, with General Scott’s forces so close behind them.
This editorial was published by the Montgomery Confederation (an Alabama newspaper that supported the move to Richmond) and reprinted by the Richmond Whig (Richmond, Virginia) on May 28, 1861:
The Removal of the Capital
The Montgomery Confederation notices, in good temper, the removal of the capital from that city to this. It says:
“Many were in favor of Congress doing just as it pleased, (which we are inclined to think was very sensible), but there were others who were very much displeased at the movement, as the capital was to be removed to a city in a border State! Others very wisely regretted the necessity for taking the step, but never uttered one word of complaint.
“Our city will miss much—but her citizens have too much patriotism and good sense to commence ‘getting mad,’ and ‘grumbling,’ and ‘swearing,’ and ‘tearing their best linen’ over a matter which has been done in perfect calmness and deliberation by the present Provisional Congressmen. Let us believe that they acted upon motives of pure patriotism. They certainly did.”
This editorial was published by the Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) on the front page of its May 30, 1861, issue:
The Montgomery papers are indignant at the removal of the Confederate capital to Richmond. The Mail goes so far as to intimate that the President and Cabinet are above the soil which bred them; that they long for cooler skies and fewer mosquitoes than accompany an Alabama August; and suggests that if there be Southern men in the Confederate States who cannot endure hot weather, and who desire to be more conveniently located to Saratoga and Niagara, they ought to remove permanently within the range of the smell of free negrodom as soon as possible. The Mail forgets that it was always a Southern weakness to come North.
This editorial was published by the Catholic Standard in New Orleans and reprinted by the Richmond Whig (Richmond, Virginia) on May 31, 1861:
The Catholic Standard, of New Orleans, advocates the publication of Dr. Nichols’ projected weekly paper, “The Age,” either in Baltimore or Richmond. It says:
“Upon the whole we would prefer Richmond. It will no doubt be the Capital of the Confederate States, and derive great importance from its being the seat of Government of the greatest and most powerful nation in the Western Hemisphere. Our northeastern boundary will probably be Delaware Bay, and our northern boundary the southern state line of Pennsylvania, which we desire to see extended to the Ohio river, so as to give the Wheeling panhandle to the United States. Richmond, from its historic association, from its proximity to the tomb of our world-honored Southern patriot, soldier and statesman, the immortal Washington, and from its salubrity and picturesque beauty, as well as from the patriotism and refinement of its high-toned and chivalric citizens, presents claims to be our Confederate Capital which we think the people of the extreme South will readily concede.”
This editorial was published by the Vermont Journal (Windsor, Vermont) on June 1, 1861:
Old Virginia has, emphatically, been “sold” by Cotton State traitors. Without one sympathy in common with the Cotton States—not excepting her pecuniary interest in the “peculiar institution”[i.e., slavery]—the “Old Dominion” has allowed the battle for cheap niggers to be transferred to her own soil—she has consented to heat the poker that shall burn out her own brains. What an old fool! Her interest is in keeping up the price of slaves, and yet she lends herself to the scheme of opening the African Slave Trade, which, if successful, will result in knocking down the value of a slave to the price of a common mule.
The Montgomery Congress has removed the seat of Government to Richmond, and thus transferred—at least for the present—the battleground from the Cotton region to Virginia. This enables the arch traitors to raise their rice, and corn, and cotton, in quiet, while duped Virginia will lie a barren waste, her fields betrodden to dust by troops and camp followers. As the boys say, Old Virginia “is breeding a scab on her nose,” and that scab, too, will blind the old dame to the fact that this transfer of the Capital will be only for temporary purposes—that she may be compelled to bear the desolation and burden of the war. Richmond is in no regard the center for the Southern Republic—neither physically nor commercially—but just now, it is important that the extreme South save its own fingers in getting the chestnuts out of the fire, and so it makes a cat’s paw of Virginia.
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