RUFUS BILLING COWING (1840-1920) was a New York City attorney and a Harvard
graduate. In this 16 pp, 4 ½ x 7 ½, Cowing writes a superlative and an
extensive letter from New York, No. 8, Wall Street, Room No. 29, on June 5,
1861, to his mother just two months after the Civil War began, arguing the
necessity of holding the Union together, highly criticizing seceding Southern
States, justifying the war and the potential of his enlisting.
16pp. 8vo., by New York City attorney and Harvard graduate Rufus Billing Cowing (1840-1920), "No. 8 Wall Street, Room No. 29, New York, June 5, 1861" to his mother, reading, in part: "…Uncle Dick…says that camp life just suits K[irk]. I am not surprised…He has always wanted to go to sea or to West Point…The discipline…will be good for him…He will come out all the better for having joined.
“You say you cannot find anything in the bible that will justify war. Well mother…we read enough about wars in the bible…I don't believe that all wars are right nor that both sides are ever right but…there can be a just & righteous war in some cases…Our American Revolution was a righteous war…This war now pending [will] be most justly and righteous carried on by our Government…It is a well settled principle that in the case of individually self-preservation is the highest law both of God & man…Government guarantees to each individual the preservation of his life and liberty and. It also guarantees him the quiet enjoyment of his property…
“As Henry Ward Beecher says…this government is not a boarding house for states to go and come just when they please. They owe allegiance and duty to this government…
“Suppose for the sake of argument that we admit their right in the Southern States to throw off all allegiance to the Federal Government at pleasure…Now if we allow the right that a state has a right to secede & leave the government, why not from the same principle allow the county to secede from the state and the city & town from the county…If we allow the right that a state has a right to secede & leave the government why not…allow the county to secede from the state and the city…from the county…(if we allow such a principle to prevail)…as William A. Seward I believe said there is only room enough in this continent for one nation, one government…If you look at this war cooly you can’t but come to the conclusion that on our part this war is an unavoidable necessity and a righteous one…
“The object of the rebels is to overturn this glorious government…and to build in its place a slave government…one based on slavery…They have plundered the United States Treasury. They have seized United States property. They have passed secession ordinances & not submitted them to the people. They have threatened to occupy our capital…They have taken that flag which has never known insult or defeat…& trampled it in the dust, dragged it through the streets & spit upon it…You will find that revolutions always have a good effect, always advance liberty & civilization…Mother you say you hope that I will give the matter my serious attention before I enlist…I have not enlisted yet nor shall I do so unless I deem it actually necessary…at present there is no need of my services nor was there perhaps of K's, but K's motives & mine are entirely different…I hope this…cause will triumph without much blood being spilt…If necessary, our Declaration of Independence should be rewritten in letters of blood. I am in favor of that measure.
“Your affect. son, Rufus."
Folds, toning, but very readable.
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