|Date(s):||May 16, 1850|
|Tag(s):||Government, Politics, Slavery|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
In 1849, each state in the Union was allotted one stone in the newly constructed Washington Monument, on which it was to put its name along with a brief inscription. The inscription chosen by Governor Chapman of Alabama read as follows: Alabama. A union of equality, as adjusted by the Constitution. This dedication was authorized by the Alabama General Assembly on December 4, 1849.
The editor of the Huntsville Democrat, a newspaper based in Madison County, Alabama, responded to the Governor's inscription on the stone in his May 16 editorial. In his column, the editor expressed many of the same sentiments toward the Union that the stone's inscription had implied. He expressed his belief in a Union of equality, in which sovereign states were bound together by mutual interests and the obligations set out by the Constitution. Under these precepts, he felt that each state should not have to sacrifice its own identity and beliefs at the expense of the national majority. To illustrate his point, the editor used an analogy comparing the states in the Union to the stones which made up the Washington Monument. He argued that each state, like the individual stones of the monument, could act as its own separate entity maintaining its own identity and still be incorporated as a part of the larger whole.
The motto on the Alabama stone of the Washington Monument and the editorial in the Huntsville Democrat alluded to growing sectionalism in the United States. This sectionalism was agitated by the possibility of Congress limiting the practice of slavery in the new territories acquired in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. According to the authors of Alabama: The History of a Deep South State, the people of Alabama interpreted the United States policy against slavery as an attack on their individual rights as a sovereign state. These sentiments serve to reflect the strict constructionist ideology of many Southerners who believed that since the Constitution did not directly grant the Federal Government control over the issue of slavery, all decisions concerning the institution should be delegated to the States. The editor of the Huntsville Democrat clearly echoed this perspective in his May 16 article. The growing antipathy towards the Union was prevalent not only in Alabama but also in other states across the South. The events of this narrative only foreshadow Alabama's eventual secession from the Union twelve years later.