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  • "Hatred of our Southern institutions"
In a speech on March 23, 1861, Delegate James Coles Bruce, of Halifax County, identified Northern hatred of Southern slavery as the cause of the sectional crisis.
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    James Coles Bruce
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"Hatred of our Southern institutions"

Excerpt from James Coles Bruce's speech in Committee of the Whole on March 23, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 2:241–242.

James Coles Bruce, of Halifax County, was a wealthy planter who probably owned more slaves than any other member of the Virginia Convention of 1861. Elected as an opponent of secession from a county that was almost evenly divided on the question in February 1861, he identified Northern hatred of Southern slavery as the cause of the sectional crisis. "It is that the hatred of our Southern institutions and our system of slavery," Bruce said in debate in the Committee of the Whole on March 23, 1861, that "is deeply, irradacably ingrafted into the minds of the Northern people. It is an opinion, sir, which has been deeply fastened there, and an opinion which, I fear, can never be eradicated." That was the reason why Bruce believed that Northern states could not be trusted to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that required return of runaway slaves to their owners.

Excerpt from James Coles Bruce's speech in Committee of the Whole on March 23, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 2:241–242.

Mr. Chairman, I wish to say to this Committee that this subject of slavery is not a question of dollars and cents. After this Colony was settled on the banks of the river at Jamestown, a Dutch ship came in from the coast of Africa with a cargo of slaves. They were bought by the early colonists. They all labored together, they grew together and they increased together; they sat by their hearthstones, were the nurses of their infancy, the companions of their childhood and the consolation of their declining years, and they are now so inter-twined with our social habits and interests, and laws, that to sever the connection must be political death even if done with the tenderest hand.
But, sir, the North have not dealt with this subject with a tender hand. Far from it. They have dealt with it with a rude hand. We find that this institution is distinctly recognized in the Constitution of the United States, and the surrender of fugitive slaves as guaranteed was honestly, and fairly and justly carried out by the first Congress in 1789. They enacted a law sir, to the effect that upon the application of a master, he could get a warrant from a Judge or Justice of the Peace, and the fugitives were to be surrendered to their masters. And fugitives were surrendered to their masters, until, in an evil hour, a case came before the judiciary of the United States in which a decision was given which says, it is not the duty of State officers to execute the law of Congress. From that time, sir, it was made a felony on the part of a State officer to arrest a fugitive slave; and we lost all chance of recovering the fugitive for years; and when a slave escaped, his master looked upon him as much beyond his reach as if he were dead. That, sir, was a distinct and solemn violation of the Constitution.
But this is not the point. It is that the hatred of our Southern institutions and our system of slavery, is deeply, irradacably ingrafted into the minds of the Northern people. It is an opinion, sir, which has been deeply fastened there, and an opinion which, I fear, can never be eradicated. Sir, the children in their primers see a print of the slaveholder with scourge in hand, and the suffering negro in chains at his feet. Every kind of effort is made to indoctrinate into the Northern mind the sentiments of abolitionism. The press, the pulpit, the school house—all are made subservient to its purpose . . . And, Mr. Chairman, whenever there occurs a war of opinion, that war will never stop; it will go on from time to time; it will increase in volume and either one or the other of the parties must submit or must be conquered. A war of opinion is sure, in the long run, to be a war of the sword.