C. Chauncey Burr was a Copperhead during the Civil War. Copperheads were mostly Northern Democrats who, to one degree or another, opposed the Lincoln administration and the war. Opposition to the war, however, did not mean they were proslavery. Copperheads generally viewed the institution of slavery negatively but, also, as merely one factor in a multifaceted war with many legal, constitutional, and social ramifications for the United States.
Burr, founded a journal, entitled The Old Guard, in order to resist the Lincoln administration by pen rather than the sword. This post addresses an interesting excerpt from Burr's writings.
--August Glen-James, editor
Mr. Lincoln is doing all he can to save the country, just as the madman attempted to save his barn, which was infested with rats, by burning it down. . . . Down with rebellion! And down with usurpers and tyrants at the same time.
“If they are honestly for a restoration of the Union upon the sublime principles of government that triumphed in the formation of the constitution in 1787, we give our hearts and hands to go with them in every legal means which can be employed for the accomplishment of that glorious object. But it is useless to deny that every intelligent man and patriot must be forced to doubt whether the administration entertains any strong wish to restore the Union. Men who are not, like the Lovejoys and Summers, demented by fanatical prejudice, can see that exterminating the institutions of the South would not be restoring the Union. Disregarding the sacred guarantees which the constitution throws around those institutions, is not saving the Union. Passing unconstitutional laws in Congress for the destruction of the constitutional rights of property in the South, is not saving the Union. Trampling on the constitution and the laws—imprisoning men for no crime, and without form of law—destroying newspapers, and punishing freedom of speech as a felony—all this mad usurpation and diabolical tyranny is not saving the Union. If those who are guilty of these momentous crimes suppose they are saving the Union, they are fit subjects for a lunatic asylum; and if they are not that, they are fit subjects for the halter. To suppose that they are not mad, is to make them the greatest criminals the world ever saw. To hear these chattering lunatics invoke the name of Jackson as a cover to their deeds, is enough to cause us to look about with a shudder to see if the old hero is not coming up out of his grave, to thunder his emphatic ‘No, by the Eternal,’ into their elongated ears. This awful ‘no, by the Eternal,’ is a sentence which the people must very soon hurl out against the usurpers and tyrants, or the day will be passed when what is left of the Union will be worth saving. As this war is conducted, the only results we shall ever have to show for all we suffer, will be two hundred thousand dead men, and five billions of debt to crush our laboring men into the earth for all time to come. Who does not see that is already as much a war against the North as the South? It is, in one word, a war against Democracy—against the principles of liberty which our fathers shed their blood to establish on this continent. It is a war against the constitution. If it were a war against rebellion only, and were conducted in a manner that promised success, we should cry ‘amen’ loud enough to be heard in heaven. But to indorse [sic] the cut-throats who now reign at Washington, who, like madmen running amuck in the Indian Archipelago, strike alike at friend and foe—would be to turn our backs upon our country in the day of its trial. To join in this crusade against constitutional liberty, would be to prove that we are bastards, and not the sons of patriot sires.
“Mr. Lincoln is doing all he can to save the country, just as the madman attempted to save his barn, which was infested with rats, by burning it down. When this country is reduced to another San Domingo, will it be our country? When one-half of the people are held in the Union by no other tie than the bayonet at their throats, will it be our country? When the throat of one half of the nation is cut by the other half, will it be our country? When the work of damnation is finished, and leaves a debt that will compel the poor people to work evermore, not for the comfortable support of their own families, but for the government, will it be our country? When the sublime principle of the Declaration of Independence, that ‘government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed,’ is driven from the continent at the cannon’s mouth, will it be our country? —Do we own it to be our country, even now, without a blush? When letters de cachet have taken the place of constitutional and statute law, is it our country? When the executive office usurps the functions of the legislative and the judicial, is it our country? When those sacred articles of the constitution which declare that ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated’—that ‘No bill of attainder or export facto law shall be passed —when these, and every other constitutional safeguard to personal liberty are trampled under foot by the executive and by Congress—is it our country? When the Austrian principles of government are transplanted to these shores, is it any longer our country? —In the name of our Fathers! In the name of God, in whose Almighty arm they confided, say No! Hurl it out in the faces of the usurpers, like Jackson’s thundering ‘No, by the Eternal,’ until the demagogueic [sic] tyrants are taught that they must no farther go in the work of destroying the constitution and laws our our country. Teach them this—That they must confine their war to those who are in rebellion against the laws, and let liberty in the North alone. Show them at once that for every illegal arrest of us offending citizens there shall fall the sure vengeance of disregarded law. Whether it be the President or his agents who are concerned, the punishment for a breach of the constitution and the laws must be a sure thing, or we allow the seeds of usurpation and despotism to be sown, which will quickly spring up, like the dragon’s teeth, into a harvest of destruction. Down with rebellion! And down with usurpers and tyrants at the same time.”
Burr, C. Chauncey. Jackson’s Nullification Message vs. Lincoln’s War Message, The Old Guard, , Vol. I, No. I, June, 1862.