This letter was written by 47 year-old Earl Bill (1813-1885) of Tiffin, Seneca county, Ohio. Earl’s first wife was Roxy Ann Allen (1820-1847); his second wife was Susan Eliza Johnson (1820-1899). Though Earl made his living as a commission merchant, he was also active in politics. Previous to the date of January 1860 letter, he had served one term (1850-1851) in the Ohio Senate and he would afterward, in May 1860, serve as a delegate to the Chicago convention that emerged with the ticket of Lincoln and Hamlin. In the 1850s he partnered with another to publish the Sandusky Register which became the mouthpiece of the rising Republican Party in northwestern Ohio.
Earl wrote the letter to his representative in Congress, the 67 year-old John Carey, a War of 1812 veteran whose career included serving as a judge, an Indian agent, a member of the Ohio legislature, and an elected Republican to the 36th US Congress (1859-1861). He died in the town he founded, Cary, Wyandot county, Ohio, in March 1875.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
January 24, 1860
Hon. John Carey,
House of Representatives, Washington
Dear Sir—Permit me to obtrude a few words upon you on political matters. At the moment I write, we have no information of the organization of the House, and we must understand probably the true causes. It is doubtless from a determination on the part of the “Democratic Party” never to let go of the hold on the public teat except when grim death summons the from all things sublunary. Thus far they have cloaked their purpose under a thin veil of pretended solicitude for the peace of Southern society, which is of course a mere show. Thus far, our Republican friends have nobly stood by their chosen leader of whom they are justly proud. Do they or do you doubt whether their constituents approve? Perhaps some shade of doubt sometimes crosses their minds; but sir, as for your District, I do not believe there can be found a single man who voted for you who would ever do so again if you should be driven by Southern bluster or Northern bluster to desert the standard bearer of the present contest so long as he maintains his present firm, self-respecting, and dignified attitude. I say this with entire respect, and not for a moment believing your firmness will be insufficient. But it may prove some satisfaction to yourself to know that your views of duty are concurred in at home.
The truth is, there seems to be a number of Representatives from the Slave-holding States who are willing to destroy the Union and set up a Negro-Confederacy of their own; and in my judgment, they have initiated the matter already and intend never to cease their treasonable plans unless they can bully the North into a surrender of everything (including Northern manhood) into their hands. This should never be done. Let us know, now—and now is a good time to come at it—whether the North is to be a mere hewer of wood for Negro-drivers, and not to be allowed to have any opinions of its own on Governmental questions. The people of the Free States never boasted of superiority over their brethren of the South; but they do claim and will maintain (I hope) to be the peers of any people. If the maintenance of their just rights in the Confederacy produces the “Irrepressible Conflict,” 1 then let it come, but only their assailants must be held responsible for the consequences.
Truly yours, — Earl Bill
1 “The term “irrepressible conflict” originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting the collision of the socioeconomic institutions of the North and the South. Seward maintained this collision would determine whether the nation would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln proposed the same idea in his “House Divided” speech. At the time, the use of the phrase did not include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would necessarily find expression in violence or armed conflict.” [Assessible Archives]