January 17, 1861: Orr to the Georgia Convention: North in the grip of a “blind and relentless fanaticism”.

James Lawrence Orr
James L. Orr

James L. Orr was a commissioner from South Carolina to the Georgia Secession Convention. The early-seceding states sent commissioners to other Southern states that were holding conventions, with the charge of helping to persuade those other states to secede and to join them in a Southern Confederacy. The speeches of these secession commissioners are quite revealing, as they represent the arguments for secession that were thought by Southerners to be persuasive to other Southerners. The supposed “fanatical” abolitionism of the Lincoln administration was the primary argument, of course.

Orr’s comments to the Georgia delegates came on January 17, 1861, the second day of the convention. After issuing the usual disclaimer about South Carolina’s supposedly “too precipitate action,” he launched into a vitriolic attack on “the Black Republican party ” and everything it stood for. The South “had suffered indignities and insults until they were no longer tolerable,” Orr proclaimed. The North was firmly in the grip “of a blind and relentless fanaticism,” and a Lincoln administration would lead inevitably to “southern degradation and dishonor.” Orr, who described himself as a “conservative and union-loving man,” saw no way out short of secession. The idea of a Montgomery meeting on February 4 was gaining momentum, and Orr urged the Georgians to take part. According to press reports, the “immense crowd” in attendance greeted Orr’s speech “with a wildness and enthusiasm, that told well, for the effect being produced by this gifted and honored son of Carolina.”

Dew, pp. 46-47

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