On November 14th, 1860, Alexander H. Stephens, soon to be vice-president of the Confederate States of America, argued against secession in a speech delivered before the Georgia legislature. In it, he countered most, if not all of the arguments for secession and identified one of the strongest arguments against it:
The greatest curse that can befall a free people, is civil war.
While the exact phrase, “states’ rights,” is not specifically used, the rights of Georgia, “our rights, interest, and honor,” is a central theme to the speech. Also important to the speech is the question of how successful Georgia would have been and would be in the future without being in the Union.
There are defects in our government, errors in our administration, and short-comings of many kinds, but in spite of these defects and errors, Georgia has grown to be a great State. Let us pause here a moment. In 1850 there was a great crisis, but not so fearful as this, for of all I have ever passed through, this is the most perilous, and requires to be met with the greatest calmness and deliberation.
There were many amongst us in 1850 zealous to go at once out of the Union—to disrupt every tie that binds us together. Now do you believe, had that policy been carried out at that time, we would have been the same great people that we are to-day? It may be that we would, but have you any assurance of that fact? Would we have made the same advancement, improvement, and progress, in all that constitutes material wealth and prosperity that we have?
Read the whole Speech Against Secession by Alexander H. Stephens