Address delivered at the 23rd Annual Spring Exhibition of the Philalethean Society of Hanover College on March 25, 1863

By John Holliday

Transcribed and Edited with Introduction by Mark A. Plozay

The Civil War greatly affected the lives of many Hanover students. While many enlisted in military service, those who stayed behind found themselves among the combatants in a battle of ideas that may have been as important, at least psychologically, as the military aspect of the conflict. Despite the departure of a large percentage of upperclassmen, many fledgling Hanover College traditions not only continued to exist, thanks to the efforts of first and second-year students, but also served to unify the campus community during a time of disunity. One such tradition, the literary society, gave the students of Hanover the opportunity to assemble together and bring the tremendous events occurring around them into their small college on the border of a potential battlefield. The following is an address delivered before the Philalethean Society, an exclusive group of young men with strong interests in science, by John Holliday, a third-year Hanover College student.

In his address, entitled "Conservatists," Holliday bemoans the existence of the group of Northern politicians whose policies and ideas, he argues, only serve to undermine the Union. From this perspective, Holliday discusses the genesis of the Civil War and argues that the compromising attitude of the Convervatists not only helped to instigate the war, but also furthered the despicable practice of slavery. Holliday's speech offers his audience, both present and future, a deep and fascinating glimpse into how the war between the states fanned the patriotic fervor of a college student during a time when the outcome of the Civil War was still in question. After the war, and after leaving Hanover, John Holliday, an influential friend to Harvey Wiley, went back to his home in Indianapolis and later founded the Indianapolis News.


Ever since the foundation of all systems of republican government there have been men who discountenanced all acts and measures of the government under which they lived. Surveying the past, we find that there has never been a war in a Republic which all the people supported. No matter for what purpose that war was waged or what end it had in view, there were always some who were opposed to it. There were Tories in the Revolution. Federalists in the war of Eighteen hundred and twelve. Whigs in the Mexican war, and in the present war there. Butternuts and conservatives years ago when the disloyal nullifiers of South Carolina endeavored to dissolved the Union of States and establish a government of their own. Andrew Jackson with an iron hand would have nipped the conspiracy in the bud and have crushed forever the ambitious hopes of the Southern Chivalry. But no. Conservatism stepped in to the rescue, and in the persons of several great men deterred him from his wise resolve, and he-ignorantly in deed, [2] suffered the vast tide of treason and rebellion to roll on unchecked. Onward on it went until we see in the halls of Congress feirce [sic] and deep quarrels over slavery. Slave holders standing up and defying the power of the North. A prominent northern man attacked in a cowardly manner knocked down and beaten by a southern bully in the Senate of the U.S.' No northerners able to hovel safety in the South without uttering great praises for the peculiar institution and proving that he was no abolitionist. The U.S. malls under a surveillance more revolting than the espionage of the French police. Men shot down for the least offenses. Lynch law predominant and worst of all prices offered for the heads of men in the North who were conscientiously opposed to slavery. We see the Missouri Compromise renewed through the influence of a northern conservatist. Our sons brothers and former neighbors slaughtered when the [sic] upon the plains of Kansas. The South every day more grasping and the North more yielding. The attempt made to force slavery upon a free people not desiring it. But we do not lift a hand to ward off the blow. It is [3] true that a small party in the North proclaimed a crusade against slavery. But the majority of the people discountenanced it and resolved to let the sacred institution alone. At length the conspiracy was ripe. All things were prepared. Like the crash of the thunder bolt the news came to the North that the Southern delegates had seceded from the Baltimore Convention & had nominated John C. Brekenridge [sic] as their candidate for the Presidency. Well did they know he could not possibly succeed. Loud and bitter were the curses against the fire eaters of the South who were thus breaking up the Democratic Party and ensuring the success of the Republicans. Silently the North listened to the threats of secession in case Abraham Lincoln was elected. The South had threatened this so much that we had begun to consider it a vain boast gotten up in order to terrify weak hearted ones. Time passed on. Lincoln was elected and in less than thirty days after the Citizens of South Carolina assembled in mock convention passed on ordinance of secession and joyfully withdrew from the confederation of states. Her example was immediately followed by all the Gulf states even down to good for nothing Florida which had been admitted into the Union [41 merely as an act of courtesy. Assembling in another sham convention, they established the government of the so called Confederate States and sent commissioners to Washington and the different courts of Europe to demand an acknowledgement of the new firm. Then came the great day of Conservatism. From all over the South there came a demoniac yell "peaceable secession." And from the broad prairies of the West and the fertile lands of the East. From New England's rockbound coast to California's golden shore there came an echoing shreik [sic] from the Conservative element "No Coercion No Coercion." The weak imbecile President James Buchannon [sic] stood still not knowing which side to join. Frightened by the noise and howls of both parties he resolved to follow his freind [sic] as far as possible. So he became a conservativist and willingly obeyed the wish of the motto of his Southern bretheren [sic] "Let us alone" Every day the South was preparing for a long resistance. Every day the traitorous Secretary of war sent arms and munitions of war to the southern states. Every day Floyd stole more government money and every day the conservatists were loudly calling for compromise, saying that to attempt to coerce the South would only drive her out [5] of the Union. Compromise after Compromise was offered and silently rejected. Conventions were held to determine upon measures of agreement, and when the traitors saw that the Crittenden resolutions would probably be adopted, they absented themselves and proclaimed aloud that separation was what they wanted and separation they would have. Lincoln was inaugurated and although besieged by office seekers found time to concert a plan for the releif [sic] of the starving garrisons of Ft. Sumter. But before that plan could be acted upon, the rebels having planted miles batteries before one little fort garrisoned by one hundred and six men attacked it and after a short resistance it was surrendered. The news flew like wild fire over the Country that war had begun. In an instant the popular sentiment was completely changed. Virginia North Carolina and Tennesee [sic] immediately seceded. The President called for seventy five thousand volunteers and was answered by the enlistment of thousands of brave men. The policy of the Conservatists now showed itself. They deprecated the action of the secessionists in thus bringing on war. Regretted that compromise had not been adopted and hoped the administration would not make the war a means of exterminating slavery. But even at this early day when Northern bosoms glowed [6] with patriotic fire there were some who openly expressed sympathy with the rebels. The first open act of these persons was the cowardly attack on the Massachusetts regiment while passing through that vile secession hole Baltimore on their way to defend the National Capitol. Had that attack succeeded undoubtedly Maryland would have been carried out of the Union. For a time it seemed as though the whole North was united in the effort to put down the rebellion. But soon the people divided themselves into two parties. Union and Butternut or Conservative. A large part of the Republicans and Democrats together with some Bell' men form the Union party. Men who are willing to sacrifice everything even life itself to see the Rebellion crushed and the Union restored. The rest of the Democrats and Bell men form the Conservative party. Men who refuse to support the administration in the prosecution of the war. Men who wish the South to succeed at all hazards. Men who have such a love for the nigger and such a reverence for his master that they would almost lick the very dust at the feet of a traitor. It is of such men that I have to speak to night. General Scott in obedience to the popular cry "On to Richmond." Ordered his generals to advance on the rebel stronghold Manassas. They were whipped and beaten back. Then men who before were silent openly began to preach succession doctrine. Northern demo[7]cratic secession newspapers were filled with articles blaming the advance on Horace Greely and other prominent abolitionists. abusing the President and reccomending [sic] a cessation of hostilities. Yet nothing was done to them. Time passed on bringing alternate victory and defeat to the armies of the Union. Even after a defeat the Conservatists would creep out of their holes like owls in the day time and rejoice over the victory of the rebels. But if we gained a battle what an awful loss of life there was! how much it had cost! and how many brave men had fallen! Some were even so traitorous as to be thought worthy of a place in Forts Warren or Lafayette with board and lodgings at the expense of the government. All of which they heroically endured in the vain hope of becoming martyrs in defense of the sacred rights of liberty. For a time when the cause of freedom was bright the Conservatists were gloomy and despairing. but their spirits rose as soon as our armies were driven back by the rebels. Conservatists are composed of conservative conservatists, neutral conservatists and radical conservatists. As in every other party and faction the women constitute the great majority of the radicals. Like their sister traitors of the sunny South they have an overwhelming contempt for the Yankee and an indescribable hatred of Lincoln and his "hirelings." Not daring to go as far as the female rebels (who often request the heart of a Yankee as a sign of true love. or his skull as a drinking cup. or rings made out of the bones of some [8] " ussed mudsill" as an emblem of eternal constancy.) they content themselves with turning half famished soldiers away from their doors unfed. nursing sick and wounded rebels. washing their dirty feet and combing their lousy heads. praising the Southern aristocracy (to which of course they belong) and abusing all who support the Administration. Some beautiful imitators of the "EEVS" (Fleet Footed Vagabonds) have even gone so far as to spit at Union soldiers and if accidentally they touched one they would brush the spot as if to rub off Luch foul contamination. Conservatists are distinguished by several great points. first and foremost among which is a remarkable love for the nigger. For years they have been in the habit of charging the abolitionists with reverence for the "wooly head and a desire to make him equal with the whites. But now the [sic] seem to have adopted the same views, They rush into the contest as a war horse at the sound of the bugle and declare that the dear african shall not be free. Indeed their love runs as much into the extreme that many of them have become "nigger maniacs." In the midst of all this tumult the African stands silent and wonders at the change which has come over him. First a nigger and a slave, then a divine ift a chattels a peculiar institution an irrepressible conflict a contraband and last but not least a free man. Conservatists all profess loyalty to the government. Like Judas they make protestations of friendship to those they wish to destroy. According to their standard they are the only true patriots. By them only can the Union be restored to its former greatness. To them only will the[9] South listen and through them only will the war be ended. Their grand hope and desire is to end the war not by honorable fighting but by base ignoble compromise. They are the ones who even at this late day come and shreik [sic] to the patriotic North Compromise Compromise. With many bewallings that the Crittenden resolutions were not adopted and forgetful of the fact that the Sout will not on any terms whatever consent to associate with the dirty greasy mechanics of the North still they come with the syren [sic] cry of Peace Peace Peace. But there is no peace. To them there is but one great word in the English language. Abolitionist compromises everything base and wicked. They have been harping so much on the abolitionist that now - like Baron Munchausen they have begun to believe all the lies they have ever told. All their speeches begin. "Fellow Citizens." "Hic niger est hunc tu cavetto "O Butternut." "This man is a black hearted wretch avoid him O Patriots". To be an abolitionist is to be a traitor a knave and a fool. But to be a Conservative is to be a patriot and a gentleman. The Butternuts have sent commissioners to Richmond to endeavor to establish a new Confederacy leaving New England out in the cold. Their hate of the Yankees is "equaled by few and excelled by none." For years the Democratic stump speakers when they had exhausted all topic of interest. they have been in the habit of inveighing against the universal Yankee nation. Cursing the land of fanaticism and enterprise, the land of school teachers and wooden nutmegs with a fervor unparalled [sic] in the history of the party. The six New England States with their commerce and manufactures have rankled so long in the minds of the Butternuts and [10] Conservatists that now they come and cry to the Western people "Separate Secede from the infernal Yankees unite with the South. build up a grand Republic and become the greatest nation the Sun ever shone upon." With such delusive cries as these Conservatists hope and attempt to drive the great North West out of the Union. They denounce this as an abolition war. An unholy unnatural unrighteous unconstitutional abolition war. What a lie! The emancipation of slaves was forced upon the President by the continued cries of the Butternuts for years and that was the only act which would end the war and bring the peace they so much desired. Strange it is that men professing & even swearing loyalty to the Union and the Constitution refuse to support the only act which will end this civil strife. The people of this nation both North and South have for many years been so absorbed in making money & getting rich that now many of them would see the whole government sunk into perdition before they would forsake the shrine of the almighty dollar & support and act which would touch their most vulnerable point - the pocket. Well did that loyal and brave Kentuckian say that the Kentucky Conservatist "straddled the fence" prayed "Oh Lord and thou too good Devil. To you and to each of you do I comment my property not my soul. for that I have not." "And now I lay me down to sleep wilt thou my nigger take and safely keep."Strange it is that men will be as blind to their own interests as to take sides with traitors. who even if they do succeed would not receive them in their country. In doing as they profess to be guided by a love of truth and justice. They harp upon the Constitutional rights of rebels. What rights have [11] traitors? They gasp for hours upon the unconstitutionality of the Presidents suspending the writ of "Habeas Corpus" when in doing so he was furthering the best interests of the Country. Is it at all likely that if they were loyal men they would be continually trying to overthrow the power of the President, break up our armies and cast all possible obstacles in the way of success. Is such the course of true patriots? No such conduct is befitting only to . They tell us that by pursuing a radical policy the Administration can only prolong the war indefinitely. But by adopting the conservative plan the South will immediately come back. They do not remember that the South has again and again expressed her determination never to come back. Had a radical policy been adopted at first. Had we emulated the example of the South in silencing every one who spoke against the government. at this day there would be few traitors in the North. There would never have been the stain upon the fair fame of the great American army that now there are more than one hundred thousand deserters. Conservatism has nearly proved the ruin of the government. if now we adopted a conservative policy we could not possibly hope to succeed. The time for compromise and moral suasion has passed away, and the time for hard blows and decisive battles has come. It is now time that Conservatism with all its accompanying train of evils was laid aside and Radicalism adopted as a "new base of operations." Conservatism produced the war. Conservatism prolonged the war and unless a change is made Conservatism will prove the rock upon which the ship of State will [12] go to peices [sic]. Meanwhile the situation of the Conservatists is not a very pleasant one. They can do very little at home. They are afraid of the Army ("who are all Democrats") and who will soon return and empty the "vials of wrath" upon their devoted heads. Hated and looked down upon by all loyal people. Despised and ridiculed by the Rebels themselves. Their measures of agreement and petitions for reconstruction rejected with scorn and contempt. They

"Living shall forfeit fair renown. And doubly dying shall go down To the vile dust from whence they sprung Unwept unhonored and unsung"


1. Originally published in The Indianapolis Star Magazineon August 4, 1963.