28, Resistance to Federal rule in Middle Tennessee, Robert B. C. Howell informs Military Governor Andrew Johnson that he refuses to take the oath of allegiance to the United States of America
January [sic] [June] [sic] 28, 1862
Gov. Johnson -- Sir: Summoned before you I am requested to take the following oath:
I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic of foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any laws, ordinances, resolutions or convention to the contrary notwithstanding; and, farther, [sic] that I do this with a full determination , pledge and purpose without any mental reservation or evasion whatsoever; and, further, [sic] that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties which may be required of me by law[.] So help me God
Sworn to and subscribed before me.
I have ever scrupulously conformed myself to the government under which I have lived. I do this as a religious duty. I have never knowingly violated any law of the Federal government, of the state government, nor of the military government now established. I am informed that no violation of the law is charged against me. My purpose is to pursue the same course hereafter. I intend not to resist the "powers that be," but to comply with their requisition as far as they do not come in conflict with my duty to God. Respectfully I feel myself obliged to say that I cannot do it, and for several reasons, some of which I beg permission very briefly to state.
First - I cannot take this oath, because there are some parts of it which I do not understand. When I am requested to swear that I will "bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the Constitution and government of the United State, any law, ordinances, resolution or convention to the contrary notwithstanding," I am at a loss as to the meaning. What law, ordinances, resolution or convention is referred to, I know not. I cannot tell whether reference is had to some exiting law, ordinance, resolution or contention which I am likely to suppose obligatory upon me, or to something of this kind which may hereafter be inaugurated. Nor do I know who is to be the judge, I myself, or some one else, whether such laws, ordinances, resolutions or conventions if there be any such, are or are not in conflict with the Constitution and government of the United States.
And, further, when I am called upon to swear "that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties which may be required of me by law," I perceive no conditions nor limitations. What laws may be adopted by the United State and by the State of Tennessee, who knows? They may be laws in conflict with my duty to God; they may be laws in collision with the constitution; they may be laws in antagonism with other laws claiming my obedience. Such compliance with them is impossible, yet it is demanded of me to swear that "I will well and faithfully perform all the duties required of me by law," without condition and without limitations.
An oath so vague, indefinite and impracticable respectfully I must decline to take.
Second -- I cannot take this oath, because once having sworn to support the Constitution of the United States, and having up to this hour faithfully complied with the obligation, and receiving now no office nor privilege of any kind under the government of the United State nor of the State of Tennessee, thee is nothing known to me in the Federal Constitution, nor in the constitution of this state, nor in the laws made in pursuance of either which requires me to repeat that oath. The demand that I shall do so under the circumstances in which I am placed implies that I am an offender against the Constitution or the laws, or both. That implication I respectfully decline to countenance by taking the oath.
Third -- I cannot take this oath because, since the present government of the United States, and the Constitution of the United States, are in some respects at least confessedly [sic] in antagonism, to "support, protect and defend" both is clearly impossible.
To support, protect and defend the one is necessarily to oppose and resist the other. To keep this oath, therefore, (I speak for myself only) is impracticable. Perjury is inevitable. From taking it, therefore, I must be excusable.
Fourth -- I cannot take this oath because it binds me to support and protect and defend the "government of the United States," by which doubtless is meant the government of the United States as at present administered. Already the administration has done many things which I cannot support and defend, and which I cannot conscientiously swear that I that I will support and defend. What it may do hereafter, and what its successor may do, I cannot tell. This makes me swear with conditions and without limitations "that I will support, protect and defend the government of the United States."
To do this would be to "resign my right of thought" and so renounce my liberty as a free citizen of my country.
Fifth -- Nor can I take this oath as a measure of expediency. By expediency I refer to the fact that since an oath taken under duress is not binding then on those who resort to it to save their families from suffering and themselves from punishment. I have a large, helpless and dependent family; I am myself not indifferent to the ease and comforts of life, but I cannot avail myself of this plea for several reasons, one only of which need be mentioned. This oath makes me swear that I take upon me those obligations "without any mental reservation or evasion whatever;" that is as I understand it, that I do not avail myself of this expedient, but take the obligation heartily and in good faith. In me, who cannot disregard its moral binding force, this would be perjury.
Sixth -- I cannot take this oath because it would be a violation of my duty to God. My duty to God requires that I shall take no oath the entire import of which I do not fully understand, that I shall not swear unless there be good and sufficient reasons for it, that I swear to do contradictory things, that I shall not do impracticable things, and that if I do swear that I shall not swear falsely, but shall truly and fully perform my oath. To take this oath would there fore be to violate my duty to God.
Seventh -- Without an oath I shall in the future, as I have heretofore, perform as a religious duty every just obligation to the "powers that be," but this oath I cannot take. I cannot take it as a measure of expediency; I cannot take it at all. I must respectfully decline it and take the consequences.
January 26, 1862
Papers of Andrew Johnson, Vol. 5, pp. 513-514, 516.
[Ed. Note - Howell's arguement was to no avail, and he was arrested shortly thereafter.]
28, "So you can see how things is working hear. If our negroes are brought home thy would all runn off sure. You can read this and not know how many is gone nor nothing about it to make them dissatisfyed." Letter from Robert Cooper to J. M. Cooper [McMinn County]
Mr. J. M. Cooper,
These few lines will inform you that we are all well at this time. We Rec 'd [sic] your line the other day without date. You said you want some corn and Bacon. Your own corn has not been troubled since you left, the robbers stold [sic] your Bacon all except seven peaces [sic] & Critz has been robbed of all his & Bed clothes & Dished & Bees & a great many other things. there [sic] has not [been] a springhouse [that has] escaped the robbers, the woods is full of Lyouts, [sic] some Bush whacken [sic] going on, a few killed on Both [sic] sides. There is several comp[any [sic] of Robbers [sic] in this county stealing horses and & Robing houses. I suppose you have heard of Yankee Raid, [sic] bean [sic] about the middle of this Month. Some 250 Yanks came from Knoxville & through Rogersville to Kingsport the stage road [sic] taking negroes & horses. Ned & Lize is [sic] both gone & Dan I suppose. When they got to fall Branch that they had 50 negroes [sic]. say [sic] 2 G. M. Lyons John H. Ellis, Isom, Mrs. Besson some James Johnson, some Robt. Neatherland [sic] & with a promise to come back and take them all. So you can see how things is working hear. [sic] If our negroes are brought home thy would all runn [sic] off sure. You can read this and not know how many is gone nor nothing [sic] about it to make them dissatisfyed. [sic] I am trying to fix for harvest. I think I will be able to save all the wheat and Rice. [sic] Your wheat is tolerable good, the Hamiltons [sic] is very good, no smut, the quaker wheat is bat smutted, some in the Rest [sic] of your wheat. Your own is all over the 3 time [sic] and looks tolerable well. This is the 4 letter that me and Rachel has rote [sic] to you & Recd [sic] one from you.
Rachel & the children is all well & getting along very well considering. Tht [sic] Damd [sic] Roges [sic] stole her bacon, most of the bacon that was left was sids. [sic] The boys complains [sic] that they have no ham to eat but a plenty of milk and butter.
You say Wm [sic] Ellis left you some time ago, he got home, come by Russell & your mare was all stolen, and gone sometime before he got Back. Your gray filey [sic] &: mule is still in the pasture up thare [sic] yet. Ellis started back some time ago but he returned back again & says he will start again as soon as the harvest is over. He said that he was taken up twist while gone the last time.
There is a few soldier hear now scouting round no regiment all scouts. We get no news from the army for some time. I am in hope it will be good when it comes.
When you receive this write to us and rite [sic] all the news, it will be all news to us.
WPA Civil War Records, Vol. 2, pp. 160-161.
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