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“Practically, The Question of Slavery in the Territories” (Boston Daily Courier, December 11, 1860)

169. Practically, The Question of Slavery in the Territories

(Boston Daily Courier [Bell], December 11, 1860)

It does not lie in the power of Congress and the President to plant slavery in a single square mile of those Territories. Grant the right to do so, constitutionally, by unanimous act of both branches of Congress, with the consent of all the people,–give slavery every possible guaranty there for its protection and perpetuation–and yet not a slave would go there. It would require the act of a higher power–by change of climate–to make the conditions by which alone slaves can be taken and kept there. The reason simply is, because “it would not pay.” What will not pay will not be done.

There are more than 30 million acres of good fertile land, in a state of nature, unimproved and untouched by labor, within the bounds of the Cotton growing slave States–capable of producing twenty million bales of cotton, or about four times the present crop of that staple, or reservation of land enough to supply food for all the laboring force required for its cultivation and its employers. The labor for such a production would require three or four times the present number of field slaves now employed in these crops in all the United States. With the world at peace, trade and manufactures prosperous, and the markets for these productions extending in a ratio like that of the last twenty years, the value of labor–that is, the price of slaves,–must increase in all that region. They have lately been profitably worked at a value of $1500 or $1800 for each able-bodied “field hand.” Calculate the time required to supply this labor, and occupy this land with slaves, under the powerful stimulus of great profits. Not even the reopening of the slave trade under protection of the United States flag, aiding the natural increase of this class of labor, could supply it fast enough to prevent the five-fold greater stream of free labor pouring down from the Northwest, overflowing and possessing the country down to central Texas.

To talk of removing them from locations of such profitable use as this, and the still greater prospective profits, to a locality where they cannot be profitably used at any price–where they would be a tax and burthen to their owners to feed and clothe them, in comparison with the cost of hired labor, for any crops to which the soil and climate of the Territories are suited–is as absurd as to propose the reversal of the laws of matter, or the laws of trade. Slave labor, like all other [433] purchasable values, must follow economical laws.[1] Its prolonged stay after it has ceased to be profitable, in localities where it has long been established, is exceptional in appearance, because feeling and habit and domestic ties made the change difficult and slow, but not the less sure.

Look at Missouri. Slavery is there established by law, and amply protected by the irritation of opposition, by prejudice, by alliance with other slave States. Yet it has wasted and faded with an accelerating rate before free labor–because slave labor was more profitable elsewhere, hired labor cheaper and more profitable in Missouri. It is now virtually and to all intents and purposes a free State. How futile then the attempt to plant slavery in any Territory of the same latitude and climate.

Look at Texas, a slave state with rights guarantied of subdividing it into three more States. Southern Texas has soil and climate admirably adapted for slave labor, suitable for the slave grown crops. Land is cheap, immigration invited and urged. Yet such is the demand for the value of this labor in other cotton States, that it is doubtful if Southern Texas will have population enough for two States, before Northern Texas will be occupied by a non-slaveholding population.

Practically, then, there is no earthly power can plant any more slave States, and the North and the south are guilty alike of the supremest folly. The one is denying what she cannot give if she would, the other demanding what she cannot accept, and each is ready to rush upon the destruction of itself and the other, for this empty privilege of being insanely obstinate, the victims of the political demagogues who play upon these jarring chords to work their own selfish ends.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 432-433.
  1. [1]In the original the comma follows rather than precedes “like.”

“The Right of Secession” (Trenton Daily State Gazette and Republican, December 6, 1860)

66. The Right of Secession

(Trenton Daily State Gazette and Republican [Lincoln], December 6, 1860)

The recent threat of South Carolina to secede from the Confederacy has called forth considerable discussion among the journals of the country as to whether a State has, or has not, a right to secede–some contending for, and others against, the right of secession. Those who contend for the right say, that each State is an independent sovereignty, and, as such, has a perfect right to do its own sovereign will and pleasure without regard to the wishes of any other State or sovereignty; while those who contend against the right of secession take the position, that, though each State is a sovereignty, yet it is not absolutely, but only conditionally, so–that is to say, it is sovereign so far as relates to its State regulations, but not sovereign as to any powers confided to the General Government by the Constitution of the country.

We are of those who believe that no State has the right to secede; nor do we believe in submitting to any measures of mere expediency, when the basis for such measures must be founded upon a wrong. South Carolina may secede, so far as words and paper resolutions go; but when Abraham Lincoln takes his seat on the 4th of March next, he will tell them in a language not to be misunderstood, that secession can not be, and will not be, permitted.

The nature of the American government is in many respects, different from any that has ever existed. It is a government of checks and balances; the federal government has its limits, and the States have their sovereign rights. The questions upon which our political parties have divided have generally been such as involved the consideration of these respective sovereignties–national and State.

When the thirteen provinces–all of them having less than three millions of people–fell like unripe fruit from the parent stem they had no permanent connection with each other; they were united only by consanguinity of race, common interests, and most of all, a common cause. They were independent States, in league through their congress, as the nations of europe may be to-day, for mutual protection. That congress proposed a convention to form a confederation, but it was not till more than a year after the Declaration of Independence that the articles of confederation were agreed to and submitted to the several States; and it was not till 1781, or nearly five years after the Declaration, [194] that Maryland, the last to accede, came into the league, and the confederation was perfected. The object of that confederation was declared to be a “perpetual union,” but it was soon found that the States had not conceded sufficient powers for the general government properly to regulate the revenues and the public credit, and in 1787 congress adopted a proposition for a convention at Philadelphia, for the purpose of “revising” the articles of confederation, to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the government and the preservation of the Union.

The convention of 1787, instead of revising the old confederation, formed and submitted the constitution–which did not abrogate the “perpetual union” already existing, but proposed a “more perfect union,”–a union that should consolidate the States for specific purposes. This constitution did not provide for its own destruction, any more than God has provided man with the right and powers of suicide.

We may see the absurdity of peaceful secession, by examining its practical operations. We see Virginia, for instance, ceding to the National Government her vast interests in the Northwest, and even agreeing, with a generosity that it would be well for the North to remember and reciprocate, that it should be free forever, and formed into other States. Who believes that Virginia would thus have acted, if she had not thought the government permanent? Would she have said, here, take these lands and make of them five free States, if those States one and all of them, the day after their organization, would have the liberty of seceding from the Union, and become rivals of herself? Then we purchased Louis[i]ana and Florida, and paid large sums of money for Texas and California–for what?–that they might secede the next day? Proposterous proposition! What a fine idea it would be to pay a hundred millions of dollars for Cuba, as Mr. Buchanan proposed, and give to Cuba the right of becoming independent immediately, and that without a why or wherefore from us! And what wisdom we should show, to expend millions to clear the rivers and harbors of Michigan, or to build the Pacific railroad through Kansas, when to-morrow Michigan by her own will and against our wishes might be united to Canada, and Kansas set up independent under some military dictator! How could we ever declare war, or make peace, or have national revenue or credit under such an arrangement?

The right of secession, as the South term it, is a sham of shams, a humbug of humbugs, as gross a delusion as political insanity ever conjured up. We are one nation from many States; and for better or worse are we to remain so for ever, or till treason and revolution blot the stars [195] from our banner; and God grant that they may not fall as long as supernal powers hold the stars in the heavens.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 193-195.

“Chivalry” (Columbus Daily Ohio State Journal, June 3, 1861)

215. Chivalry

(Columbus Daily Ohio State Journal [Lincoln], June 3, 1861)

Some of the best words in our language have been prostituted to the basest uses. What term is in such bad odor as “affinity,” for instance, since its adoption into the vocabulary of the pestilent Free Lovers. Yet no more corrupt office does it perform than the word written above. “Chivalry” once had a noble meaning. We naturally associate with it the high tone of the ancient warriors, who disdained to strike an unarmed antagonist, and who would defend to the last even a foe who had eaten salt with them. But in the progress of time, with its changes, [536] we find the import of words accommodating itself to the habits, the thoughts and vices of men even. The civilization of slavery, which gilds treason into “peaceful separation,” humiliating concessions into “compromises,” and theft and robbery into an “accumulation of means,” readily transforms cowardly ruffianism, simply, into “chivalry.”

From the time Virginia first made negro-breeding her forte, South Carolina furnished a fine crop of poltroon tories for Marion’s bullets, and Louisiana opened her arms to receive the harlots and cut-throats of France–our Southern brethren have monopolized all the chivalry of the entire Western Continent. They couldn’t hear to the possession of a lingering spark of this element in the pleb[e]ian masses of the North, who work for a living, build churches and school-houses, construct railroads, pay their debts and fear God. These base Puritans never swagger. They have no servile population to bully. They consume a less amount of coarse tobacco and poor whisky, and have failed to reach the apex in brutal profanity and general beastliness. Hence their want of chivalry. Could these pitiable creatures be induced to embrace the saving grace of African slavery, repudiate their just debts, conspire against the Government, steal its property, the merchants turn their trading vessels into pirate ships, abolish the free school systems, devote themselves to dissipation, not forgetting the amusement, when maddened with “tangle-foot,” to stab or shoot some unoffending, unarmed neighbor in the back, they might yet possibly redeem themselves.

This Southern chivalry takes on many shapes. It is as various as the different degrees of ignorance and brutality of its champions. To cudgel a United States Senator in his seat, of his guard and with no means of defence, beating him with a bludgeon within an inch of his life, while other armed ruffians stand near to see that the job is thoroughly executed, is the height of South Carolina chivalry and daring. It made no hero of the perpetrator of such a deed, and had not Providence so signally shown his hand, this same drunken bully would now doubtless be occupying a high seat in the rebel synagogue of the South.

The chivalry of Missouri assumed a form in Kansas which is yet fresh in the public mind. There Clark and Gardner, vieing [sic] with each other in the display of valor, stole behind one Barber, guilty of entertaining Free State notions, and fired their rifles at his back. He fell dead, but it was impossible to determine which hero had taken him off. A pro-slavery President got along with the matter, however, by appointing one Post Master and the other Purser in the Navy. In Kansas, too, was where Hopps, another Free State agitator, was scalped by Murphy, who was rewarded with an Indian Agency; where a Free State town was [537] battered down and pillaged, everything portable being carried off; where a son of the old martyr Brown, a prisoner and unarmed, was hacked to pieces by a hatchet in the hands of one Gibson–where, in short, butchering Free State men and laying waste their property was the chief employment of the Missouri braves for two or three years.

Later we find the chivalry of Texas–after that State has committed the most disgraceful treason, and resorted to the most dishonorable means to capture the loyal soldiers of the Federal Government–cropping out in the paying of respects to a Massachusetts woman. It was discovered by the chivalric citizens of San Antonio that this unprotected female was guilty of the heinous offense of having been born in Boston. It was inferrable from this, of course, that she did not regard the system of African slavery as a little ahead of the atonement in the regeneration of a fallen world, and she was surrounded by the daring sons of the South, who led her into the public streets, stripped her bare, applied a soothing, unctuous plaster of tar to her naked person, set off with an outer covering of down, rode her in state around the public square on an unpolished rail, with a secession flag on either side, the march accompanied by the musical yells of an excited mob. It is not uncommon for slave women to be stripped and lashed, in the South; and the above incident but shows that Southern character is progressing in the natural direction. We are constrained to believe there is yet some show for Sodom and Gamorrah in the last day.

After this chivalry has thieved and robbed until there was nothing else to lay its hands on, and plotted the most damnable treason, setting up its vileness against the Federal Government, it asks to be recognized as an independent power, and intimates a desire to carry on war after the civilized programme. It commences this war, however, by setting seven or eight thousands of its bullies on a starving garrison of seventy soldiers, and when discovered that the post the latter held was wrapped in flames, the braves plied the red-hot shot the more furiously. The Southern chivalric plan of warfare continues as it began, and is, in fact, but an expansion of its ruffianism and assassinations in time of peace. Bribes have been offered our faithful soldiers, who were guarding entrances to forts, and sentinels have been shot down at their posts by concealed foes. The lives of entire regiments have been attempted through poisoned liquors, dealt out as if from friendly hands.–The slaveholding Indians of Arkansas and North Carolina have been instigated to visit their savage atrocities upon the loyal citizens of the United States when fitting opportunity should offer.

The assassin’s dagger and bullet, the savage’s tomahawk and scalping [538]knife, arsenic, prus[s]ic acid and strychnine are to be the weapons of chivalry in this war. Oh Dahomey! Ye cannibal realms of the South Pacific! hold up your heads!

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 535-538.

“Blood Will Tell” (Detroit Daily Advertiser, Apr. 4, 1861)

208. “Blood Will Tell”

(Detroit Daily Advertiser [Lincoln], April 4, 1861)

Until Texas was admitted into the Union, it was considered the Botany Bay of America–the chief difference between the former and the British penal colony being, that one was the compulsory, and the other the voluntary resort of criminals. Every horse thief, murderer, gambler, robber, and other rogue of high and low degree, fled to Texas when he found the United States too hot longer to hold him. The pioneers of that State were cut-throats of one kind or another, with some honorable exceptions. Those of them who have escaped hanging or the State prison, and their descendants, are the men who have led the secession movement in that State. It is not strange that, with such [525] antecedents, they should turn out traitors when all other crimes had been exhausted.

If the population of the State had not been of such an origin, we might have looked for some slight show of gratitude from them towards the United States, and even towards the North. But as it is, the world will hardly be disappointed, infamous as their ingratitude and treachery has been. In their war for independence, Northern men fought gallantly and contributed largely to its ultimate emancipation from Mexican rule. The United States government has not only indulged the people of Texas, but it has paid their debts and involved itself in a war which cost the country three hundred millions of dollars.

Since 1848 nearly three-fourths of our active army have been employed in protecting the State of Texas from the Indian and Mexican incursions. We have maintained forts and garrisons at an enormous expense, to protect Texan people, and the return which their potent demagogues make us is the confiscation or seizure of United States property, and the impudent declaration that Texas has seceded from the American Union. A hoary-headed old traitor, Gen. Twiggs, who had grown rich upon the favors of the National Government, tried to betray the army under his command in Texas; but there was not a man, and but few of his officers, mean enough to follow his dastardly example.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 524-525.

“The Secession Theory” (Madison Wisconsin Daily State Journal, November 17, 1860)

60. The Secession Theory

(Madison Wisconsin Daily State Journal [Lincoln], November 17, 1860)

The present ebullition of disunion feeling at the South is reviving the old discussions, so general during nullification times when General Jackson issued his famous proclamation against the nullifiers of South Carolina, respecting the limits of State and federal authority under the Constitution.

Such discussions can only result in good. They lead to a study both [180] of the fundamental law, and of the early history of the Republic, too much neglected by a people who are themselves the source of all political power, and who, under the Constitution, are “the rightful masters of both Congress and courts.”

Our whole system of Government is founded upon the supposition that the majority of the people are not only just and honest, but intelligent. Yet it must be conceded there are too many who exercise the right of suffrage without that knowledge of the government and its history essential to enable them to cast an intelligent vote.

Whatever tends therefore to turn the attention of the reading public in the direction of the Constitution and its history, must produce, in this respect at least, beneficial results.

The particular point which is now most discussed, is the right of a State to withdraw from the Union without the consent of the other States, and to set up an independent nation. It might in some cases be just and politic to permit such a secession. But this is not the question.–It is whether, upon some alleged grievance, or on account of some fancied good to be obtained, a State has the right to dissolve the bonds of the Union.

The great majority of the Northern press take ground against this right. Madison, who was better entitled, perhaps, to the name of the Constitution than any other man, denied it in the most explicit language. Such was Webster’s interpretation. Such is the view taken by President Jackson in his proclamation already alluded to. That document contains an admirable summary of the argument against the alleged right. It is yet more fully argued in Webster’s celebrated speech in reply to Hayne. The other side of the question is presented most fully and ably by the writings of John C. Calhoun.

The whole question depends for its solution upon the manner in which we understand the character of the Union. If it be a mere loose league of confederated sovereignties, the right to secede undoubtedly exists. If it be more than that, if it be a government, if the states are not complete sovereignties, the right to secede undoubtedly exists. If it be more than that, if it be a government, if the states are not complete sovereignties but have given up a portion of their sovereignty to a national government for the sake of mutual protection and benefit, then that right must be denied, although it would still remain a question of policy whether, in a particular case, force should be employed to restrain a state attempting to cut loose from the Union.

Some of the disadvantages which would result from the right of secession, if granted, will readily suggest themselves:

1. The people of the United States have bought and paid for Florida, Louisiana, and other states. Under the secession theory these may step [181] out of the Union to-morrow without any obligation to refund the money they have cost us.

2. Texas was an independent sovereignty. But she was overwhelmed with debt. She asked and was admitted into the Union. The Union has paid her debts; it has defended her territory at the sacrifice of both blood and treasure. Wisconsin contributed of her means and men; so did New York, Massachusetts, and every State in the Union. Having got rid of her debts, upon this theory of secession, Texas has the right, at any time, to cut loose and set up for herself again.

3. The Union may buy Cuba to-morrow, at a cost of $200,000,000, of the common treasure of the States. The next day she may assert her right of secession. Spain will have the $200,000,000. We shall have nothing but an illustration of the beautiful results of the Calhoun construction of the Constitution.

4. The Atlantic States may, under this doctrine, secede, and set up an independent confederacy, or confederacies, compelling the interior States to pay to them, for their sole benefit, a duty upon all their imports and exports, while Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the other interior States, now prone to suspect that they have some little interest in the Atlantic ports, must quietly submit.

5. If the Union is involved in war with some foreign power, and becomes plunged in debt by a heroic struggle for her existence–no matter how just her cause–any craven and selfish state, under the doctrine of the right of secession, may abandon the Union at the beginning and thus avoid the dangers which the others meet, or, at the close of the struggle, and thus avoid the payment of her proportion of the debt incurred.

These are but a few of the evil consequences which attend this theory. We believe it is alike without foundation in the Constitution or in common sense and we have no doubt but it will find in Abraham Lincoln as prompt and decided an opponent as it found in Andrew Jackson.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 179-181.

“Peaceable Secession an Absurdity” (New York Evening Post, November 12, 1860)

52. Peaceable Secession an Absurdity

(New York Evening Post [Lincoln], November 12, 1860)

In behalf of the treachery and imbecility of the Administration at Washington the new doctrine is invoked that each state has a right peacefully to secede–that nullification of any particular law of Congress is to be resisted and punished by the government, but that secession, i.e., the absolute nullification and defiance of all such laws, and of the Constitution and of the Union, is perfectly right and within the power, at all times, of each and every state. The faithless members of the cabinet seek thus to shelter themselves and their partisans in disunion from resistance by the general government, while the imbeciles aim in the same way to find an excuse from [sic] shrinking from their duty of affirmative and energetic action for which they lack courage if not principle.

A more monstrous and absurd doctrine than that of the right of any state at its pleasure to secede from the Union has never been put forth. the government in such case would indeed be a mere rope of sand. According to this dogma, Cuba, after we shall have paid $200,000,000 for her purchase, as a state may at once secede, and leave the United States Treasury to place that small item to the account of “profit and loss.” Texas, when she came into the Union after we had paid many millions to discharge her debts, and other millions to go into her coffers, was and is entirely at liberty to secede with the booty. Each and all the states carved out of the Louisiana purchase, for which we also paid such an immense sum, may do the like.

So, too, states in which the largest amounts of the public property may be situated may at any time secede with that property. When the Pacific Railroad shall be constructed, at an expense of countless millions, paid from the common treasure, the two or three states through which it will run may decamp with the plunder and plant a custom-house on the site of our storehouses. Vermont, New Hampshire, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the other inland states, which will have contributed to these great disbursements, and in which states hardly a dollar of the public treasure is even [ever?] expended, are to look quietly and approvingly on the exodus of those which have been thus purchased and enriched at their expense, and to recognize the right of each of them to secede and take the property with them.

Again, if this right exists it exists at all times, until no two states remain united. What, then, would become of the national debt and the national credit? To whom would the creditors of the government look for payment? Should the government be, as it may at any time be, indebted on its stocks hundreds of millions of dollars, its creditors could look, in case of secession, only to the states which should remain united. Those which should have seceded and established independent governments could not be reached. The creditor could claim of them no percentage of liability. They would plead that they had never contracted, and that they had been only stockholders in a corporation in which there was no individual liability.

Nor could the continuing government of the United States compel the payment by the seceding state of a portion of the public debt. There would be no data from which a definite percentage could be assigned to it, nor would it have the ability to pay. If South Carolina finds it [161] necessary to repudiate at the outset by suspending specie payments, and (as already foreshadowed) by annulling even private debts due by its citizens to those of other states, it is plain that both ability and principle will be lacking for payment of her share (if it could be allotted) of the public debt. There is no court by which any fixed amount could be established as due from her on account of that debt, or which could issue execution for its payment. It results therefore that the seceding state could only be compelled to pay any share of the national debt (contracted on her account, as well as that of the other states) by war and reprisals by the general government. This puts an end to the idea of peaceable secession and the right of secession.

But can any of the democratic book-keepers tell us how (if payment could be compelled) they could make out the account current between the seceding state and the government, so as to strike a balance between the debit and the credit sides? Large amounts have been expended by the government on her account and within her borders. Forts for her harbors, light-houses, court-houses, coast-surveys, custom-houses, nonpaying postoffices and post routes, and salaries of the swarms of officers and leeches attendent upon all these, in addition to her undefinable share of the public debt, have all been paid. But then she has a credit side of the account also, which it will be impossible to adjust. How are we to ascertain the values and the proportions thereof to which she is entitled of the public arms and ammunitions of war, arsenals, ceded places, public edifices, ships of war, and of the public lands? Is there any court, or is there any form of action by which partition can be made of the territories? This last item is a very material one, for the only point of principle on which the secessionists take issue with the Republicans as to the platform of the latter (adopted at Chicago) is that of carrying slavery into the territories. What foothold or property in the territories will the seceders retain on leaving the Union? They will be foreign states, and we believe it has not yet been claimed, even by Judge Taney, that the laws of foreign states extend proprio vigore over the territories.

Another difficulty in making up the account with South Carolina would result from her claiming an almost incalculable credit for the disproportion of the public burdens which she fancies she has borne in the confederacy, by reason of what she considered the unequal operation of the various revenue laws.

Now, this right of secession, if it exist at all, is an absolute one, and a state has as much right to exercise it at one time as at another. If she may secede at will, she may do so in anticipation of war, or in time of [162] war. If she can secede when she chooses, she owes no allegiance to the government an hour after she decides to secede, but will then be just as independent of the government as she is of any other nation. In the midst of war, then, it will be the right of any state not only to desert our own government, but at the same time to ally herself with the enemy. The Hartford Convention complained that New England was heavily taxed, but not defended by the general government, and merely proposed to ask the consent of the government to expend in the defence of New England the taxes raised in New England. This was not claimed as a right, but the consent of the government was to be sought. This was hardly an approach to secession, but the democracy of that day did not tolerate even the proposition, and the Hartford Convention was execrated.

But the absurdity of this new doctrine of the right of secession is too palpable for serious argument. The government under such a principle could not have twenty-four hours of assured existence. Neither other nations, nor its own citizens, could have confidence in its permanence. It would lack the vital principle of existence, because it would wholly lack credit. Nobody would lend it a dollar, for nobody could be sure that it would hold together long enough to pay a six months’ loan, to say nothing of loans for long terms of years. The public faith, on which alone all who deal with governments can repose, would be utterly lacking. Business could have no security or stability, for men would not embark either their industry or their capital, unless under the shelter of laws and institutions not liable to change.

No–if a state secedes it is revolution, and the seceders are traitors. Those who are charged with the executive branch of the government are recreant to their oaths if they fail to use all lawful means to put down such rebellion. The people of no party base any confidence either in the fidelity or nerve of the Administration in Washington, but fear they will prove, some of them from inclination and others from timidity, practical allies of the revolutionists. They and their partisans have done all in their power to inflame and mislead the South, by charging upon the northern states the design of interfering with the rights of the people of the South, and the mercenaries here have co-operated in this false clamor and deception. The Administration, in relinquishing the government will endeavor to leave all possible embarrassments in the way of its successors, but we much mistake if those of its partisans here who have been foremost in the false work, will not be the first with whom the consequent mischief will come home to roost.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 158-162.

“The Practical Difficulties of Secession” (Philadelphia Press, December 21, 1860)

37. The Practical Difficulties of Secession

(Philadelphia Press [Douglas], December 21, 1860)

The members of the South Carolina Disunion Convention, as they approach the consideration of the practical questions involved in a faithful and thorough-going execution of their secession project, are beginning to realize some of the difficulties they will be compelled to encounter. It is a comparatively easy matter to burn down a house if no one attempts to arrest the flames, but it requires much laborious toil to erect a new one. Even if the efforts of the States which propose to secede should prove successful, they will not soon be able to erect a new Government which will be as useful and beneficent to them as the present Confederacy, notwithstanding their loud complaints against it.

If, by secession, they do not mean anything more than the adoption of empty resolves and pronunciamientos–the passage of ordinances repealing their ratification of the Federal Constitution, the resignation of leading Federal office-holders, and the virtual abolition of the Federal courts, they will certainly do much to alarm and agitate the American people, and to bring discredit upon the nation; but they will still virtually be in the Union. The convenience of the present Post Office system is acknowledged even now in South Carolina. They are not prepared to furnish a sufficient substitute for it. The best plan they have yet devised is to form some sort of an amicable arrangement with the powers that be at Washington, by which the postmasters of the Palmetto State will perform their duties as usual, while they refuse to recognize in any way the authority of the Federal Government, and consider their own local rulers the only ones they are obliged to respect and obey! If Mr. Buchanan adheres to the programme laid down in his message [123] and to the doctrines enunciated in the elaborate opinion prepared for him by the late Attorney General Black, he cannot well avoid collecting the Federal revenues at all Southern ports, even after the passage of secession ordinances; and if this duty is discharged, any State which assumes a rebellious attitude will still be obliged to contribute revenue to the support of the Federal Government or have her foreign commerce entirely destroyed. There will be no necessity for a collision unless some of the American forts are attacked, or the collection of duties meets with resolute and determined opposition. In either of these events, the National Government of this country will still have full power to vindicate its authority and to enforce compliance and respect, if those who rule its councils shall deem it expedient to avail themselves of the ample resources at its command.

All these obstacles must be entirely overcome, either by force, or by the connivance of the Federal Government, or by the consent of the States which remain in the present Confederacy, before any effort at secession can become completely successful, and before South Carolina or any of her discontented sisters can fully assume, among the Powers of the earth, a free and independent position. Many of the ablest men of our country have ridiculed the idea of “peaceable secession” as preposterous, and although it probably meets now with more favor than at any former period, it will be a singular event if we should fail to settle our existing quarrels within the Union, when we have common tribunals to appeal to, and yet preserve amicable relations during the progress of a dissolution of the Confederacy, and after so dire a calamity was consummated.

But, even supposing that a peaceable secession policy should prevail, and that the Gulf States should have but to declare their desire for independence to secure it, they could not rationally expect to form a new Government which would be more useful and advantageous to them than the present one has, up to this time, proved itself to be. No section of our country has derived greater benefits from the American Union heretofore than the very States in which the secession sentiment is most formidable–South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The anxiety of the latter to enter our Confederacy was a striking evidence of her appreciation of the advantages it could confer upon her, and certainly her anticipations must have been more than realized when we consider that we not only assumed and finally disposed of her long-standing quarrel with Mexico, by defeating and humiliating the latter, but that we paid off all her heavy old debts, and that, in wealth and prosperity, she has constantly [124] been increasing, with wonderful rapidity, since her annexation. Louisiana and Florida were purchased outright from foreign Governments, and owe to the power of the American Union not only the freedom they enjoy, but nearly all their prosperity. It required all the energy, and much of the treasure, of the Federal Government to finally subdue in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, the powerful Indian tribes which once inhabited them. The rich plantations, which now send forth their large annual products of cotton, would probably still be under the control of their aboriginal owners, if the forces of the United States had not driven them from their native haunts, and if the white settlers had not relied upon the support and protection of a great nation. South Carolina has always exercised in the councils of the nation quite as much, if not more, influence than any State of equal population, and has reaped her full proportion of all the benefits it has conferred. She complains that she has been onerously taxed, but she will find it utterly impossible, if her secession ordinance should really sever her connection with the Republic, to secure advantages equal to those she has heretofore enjoyed, without incurring a much larger expenditure than she has heretofore been subjected to. In what new Confederacy, or under what new system, can she be as well protected from foreign invasion and domestic insurrection, and have her rights at home and abroad as well secured, as under the one from which she appears so anxious to escape? The expense of our army and navy, of our diplomatic system, of our whole machinery of National Government, weighs but lightly on thirty-three States, but any new organization which approaches it in efficiency would be exceedingly burdensome to any small Confederacy.

Viewing the secession experiment in the most favorable light that its authors can possibly consider it, it is still full of embarrassments and perils; and while we trust that the Representatives of the North will be ready to do all in their power to remove every just cause of complaint, and to destroy every plausible pretext for a dissolution of the Union, we trust that when the prevailing excitement in the Cotton States subsides, their citizens will coolly and calmly consider this subject, in all its aspects, to ascertain whether it is not even better to bear the ills they have than to fly to others that they know not of.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Volume I (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 122-124.

Wanted–A Policy! (New-York Times, April 3, 1861)

Wanted–A Policy!

(New-York Times [Lincoln], April 3, 1861)

The Washington correspondent of one of our morning contemporaries says:

The point of embarrassment concerning Fort Sumpter, in the President’s mind, as announced with entire candor, is, that if it be yielded, and the Federal authority thus withdrawn under real or supposed necessity, similar reasons may be urged as to Fort Pickens and other points, which are not considered in the same category.

We should be very sorry to think that the President’s mind was embarrassed, or his action controlled, in any degree by such considerations at this late day. Undoubtedly in themselves they deserve serious and grave attention. But they should have been weighed and disposed of long ago. It is by no means a new discovery that much may be said on both sides of every question;–and persons who have nothing better to do may amuse themselves by such carefully balanced dialectics. But President Lincoln has duties and responsibilities on his hands which forbid his indulgence of such tastes. He is required to act,–and action requires decision. Certainly it is a momentous question whether Fort Sumpter should be evacuated or not:–there are many reasons to be urged for it and many against it. But Mr. Lincoln is under the necessity, after full consideration of both sides, to adopt one course or the other;–and when adopted he should act as if no objections had ever been urged against it. If he has decided to evacuate Fort Sumpter, he should do it, frankly,–not with apologies or useless “embarrassments.” The effect of such a step should have been considered long ago.

It is idle to conceal the fact that the Administration thus far has not met public expectation. The country feels no more assurance as to the future–knows nothing more of the probable results of the secession movement,–than it did on the day Mr. Buchanan left Washington. It sees no indication of an administrative policy adequate to the emergency,–or, indeed, of any policy beyond that of listless waiting [661] to see what may “turn up.” There are times when such a policy may be wise;–but not in presence of an active, resolute, and determined enemy. The new Confederacy is moving forward, towards the consummation of its plans, with a degree of vigor, intelligence, and success, of which, we are sorry to say, we see no indications on the part of the Government at Washington. In spite of the immense difficulties with which they have to content,–the poverty of the country, its utter lack of commerce, of an army and navy, and of credit,–the hostility of its fundamental principles to the sentiment of the Christian world, the utter hollowness of its reasons for revolution, and the universal distrust which it encounters everywhere,–in spite of all these obstacles and discouragements, we cannot conceal the fact that the new Government of which Jefferson Davis is at the head, has evinced a marvelous degree of energy, and is rapidly assuming the proportions of a solid and formidable Power. Within less than six months they have adopted a Constitution, organized a Government, put all its machinery into working order, established a commercial system and put it in operation, laid the basis of a financial department, organized an army, secured enormous stores and munitions of war, and put themselves in a position to offer a very formidable resistance to any attempted coercion on the part of the United States. And what has been done on our part against them? What single step has been taken by our Government, either to resist their movement from without, or to appeal with vigor and effect to the loyalty which still lives within their borders? Jefferson Davis will soon have an organized army of 30,000 men at his command:–suppose he decides to march into Mexico, or Virginia, or upon Washington,–what organized means have we to resist and defeat his schemes? They have adopted a revenue system for the express purpose of depleting and damaging our commerce:–what have we done to offset it? With a blindness and a stolidity without a parallel in the history of intelligent statesmanship, we have done everything in our power to aid their efforts, and crown their hostile endeavors with complete success.

The fact is, our Government has done absolute[ly] nothing, towards carrying the country through the tremendous crisis which is so rapidly and so steadily settling down upon us. It allows everything to drift,–to float along without guidance or impulse of any kind. This might do well enough, if the Southern States were pursuing the same policy. But while we are idle, they are active. While we leave everything at loose ends, they make everything tight and snug for the coming storm. Such a course can have but one result. The President must adopt some [662] clear and distinct policy in regard to secession, or the Union will not only be severed, but the country will be disgraced. No great community can drift into ruin, without losing character as well as prosperity. It must, at least, make an effort at self-preservation, if it would avoid the contempt inseparable from imbecility. A nation may be overcome by outward force, or destroyed by internal treachery;–but if it struggles nobly and gallantly against its enemies, whatever else it may lose, it preserves the respect of the world, as well as its own. We are in danger of losing everything–even honor. The public sentiment is already demoralized,–the heart of the people is deadened,–and the patriotism of the country is already paralyzed, to a degree which a year ago we should not have thought possible in any contingency. Rebellion in the popular judgment has ceased to be a crime. Treason has become respectable. Men throughout the North think and talk of the revolution which is crushing the best Constitution the world ever saw,–which is sweeping away a Government which has done more for popular rights and popular interests than any other the earth has ever known, as they would talk of a partisan canvass for control of a village corporation. Deeds of infamy, compared with which Arnold’s treason shines bright as the sun at noonday, excite scarcely a passing remark, and the fate of the great Republic of the Western world–the great Republic of human history–excites scarcely as much interest as the fluctuations of the Stock market, or the ups and downs of a local canvass.

What is the reason of this sad–this fearful change in the temper and tone of the country? Is patriotism a fiction? Have we suddenly discovered that Governments are but playthings–that loyalty is a delusion–that to stab a nation is to commit no crime? Or does the event vindicate the old faith that Democracy is a delusion–that the people are incapable of self-government, and that bayonets and cannon are the only security for law and order?

Is it not rather than the people have no leaders,–no representatives in the posts of power,–no men filled with the conscious sense of duty, and omnipotent to do what is right through faith in the people whose interests and rights they guard, and whose power they wield? One of the highest and noblest functions of a Government in a free country is to lead the nation,–to go forward as the national honor and welfare may call, and summon the people to rally to the standard set up in their defence. The people look to their Government for guidance in every great emergency. They look to it for courage, for vigor, for indomitable energy, for all the great qualities which give [663] success to nations and glory to success. And when the Government fails them, they are powerless. They have no other leadership–no other means of union–no possibility of making their wishes known or their will felt, but through the action of the Government to which they have intrusted their welfare and delegated their power.

It is the high, the imperative duty of President Lincoln, in this solemn crisis of the nation’s fate, to give the American people this guidance and leadership. He was perfectly right in saying at Springfield that upon his shoulders rests a responsibility more weighty than has ever fallen upon any one of his predecessors. That responsibility is not met by supervising the distribution of office. Mr. Lincoln should reserve his thoughts and his strength for nobler duties than presiding over the wranglings of hungry and selfish hunters for patronage and place. He wastes powers that belong to the nation,–he squanders opportunities which millions upon millions of gold will never bring back, for rescuing the nation from the most fearful perils. We shall not be suspected of any but the most friendly sentiments towards the President of the United States, when we tell him, what the courtiers who hang upon his favor will not dare to whisper,–that he must go up to a higher level than he has yet reached, before he can see and realize the high duties to which he has been called. He has spent time and strength in feeding rapacious and selfish partisans, which should have been bestowed upon saving the Union and maintaining the authority of the Constitution he has solemnly sworn to defend. He has not done what he was expected to do as soon as he should assume the reins of power–summon back, by word and act, the loyalty of the American people to the flag and the Government of their common country. The Union is weaker now than it was a month ago. Its foes have gained courage, and its friends have lost heart. Step by step the new Confederacy marches forward towards solid and secure foundations,–and day by day the bright hopes of the lovers of the Union fade and die away.

The Administration must have a policy of action,–clear and definite in the end it aims at, wise and resolute in the means employed, and proclaimed to the people as the standard around which they can rally. What it should be, it is not for us to say. That is a matter requiring wise and careful deliberation on the part of those who are responsible; but it should be decided upon promptly, and then carried into effect with steady and dauntless resolution.

The President has to decide whether he will enforce the law at the hazard of civil war,–or whether he will waive the exeuction of the law, and appeal to the people of the seceded States on behalf of the [664] Union. One or other of these courses he should lose no time in adopting,–simply because every day lost renders less possible the success of either. If he decides to enforce the laws, let him call Congress together and demand the means of doing it. If he decides upon Peace, let him proclaim his purpose,–and seek at once the confidence and favor of the people whom he desires to win. Let him first disarm the fears of War which now unite, by outward pressure, the Southern people,–and then let him proceed to organize a Union Party in every Southern State, and to strengthen and encourage it by all the legitimate means at his disposal. Why has Sam Houston, of Texas, been left to fight the battle of the Union alone,–without a word of encouragement, or promise of a man or a dollar from the Government at Washington? Why have the Union men in Louisiana been abandoned without an effort, to the despotism of the minority which has usurped control of their affairs? Why have the noble-hearted champions of the Union and the Constitution in Virginia and Tennessee and Kentucky, been ignored utterly in the use of the Executive patronage and in all the public action of the Federal Government? Simply, in our judgment, because the Administration has decided upon no means of meeting the secession movement,–because it has no Policy. It is going on blindly,–living from hand to mouth,–trusting in the chances of the future for deliverance from present and impending perils.

We trust this period of indecision, of inaction, of fatal indifference, will have a speedy end. Unless it does, we may bid farewell to all hope of saving the Union from destruction and the country from anarchy. A mariner might as well face the tempest without compass or helm, as an Administration put to sea amid such storms as now darken our skies, without a clear and definite plan of public conduct. The country looks eagerly to President Lincoln for the dispersion of the dark mystery that hangs over our public affairs. The people want something to be decided on–some standard raised–some policy put forward, which shall serve as a rallying point for the abundant but discouraged loyalty of the American heart. In a great crisis like this, there is no policy so fatal as that of having no policy at all.

Northern Editorials on Secession Volume II, 660-664.

“Our Foreign Relations” (New-York Daily Tribune, June 3, 1861)

423. Our Foreign Relations

(New-York Daily Tribune [Lincoln], June 3, 1861)

Whoever reads attentively the recent debate on American affairs in the House of Lords will find it difficult to detect therein any trace of that ill will toward our Government or disposition to aggravate our intestine troubles which is popularly supposed to animate the councils of the Western European Poewrs. That there are Britons high in rank and station who would see without profound regret the dismemberment and ruin of the Great Republic, we cannot doubt; that a kindred impulse is rife though latent among the dignitaries and courtiers of most monarchies, we believe; but that any of the Great Powers is disposed or likely to take any position or step calculated to disturb our international amity, we do not credit. On the contrary, the tone of the debate aforesaid, and of European official utterances generally, is marked by eminent dignity, moderation, and anxiety to give no just cause of offense to our Government or People.

Has this evident desire to maintain amicable relations with us been fairly met on this side of the water? We think not. In many quarters a disposition to take offense at trifles and aggravate slight differences into causes of serious quarrel has been manifested. Some of our valorous contemporaries have seemed to think that, since we are in for a fight anyhow, we might as well make a job of it, and polish off Great Britain, France, Spain, and perhaps two or three others, before we return to our plows, our anvils, and our ledgers. We dissent from this view altogether, insisting that we shall first finish up the little matter we have in hand, and then, if we have other accounts to settle, proceed with them seriatim, until the last shall have been fully adjusted.

A good deal of not unnatural feeling has been excited among us by the language of Lord John Russell importing thta our Government and that of Jeff. Davis are to be accorded respectively the rights of “belligerents.” We do not consider his expression felicitous, and we are confident that, if the subject were now to come up originally, different language would be chosen. But consider well the circumstances under which that language was uttered.

The doctrine that a government in fact is to be regarded by foreign powers as a government of right is emphatically of American origin. Up to this year, we have steadfastly commended and adhered to it. By virtue of it, we were among the first to recognize the independence of the South American republics, of Mexico and of Texas. By virtue of it, [973] our Minister at the French Court was the first to recognize the Republic of 1848. Respect for it paralyzed the tongues which would have gladly pleaded for a manly American protest against the bloody and perfidious Napoleonic usurpation of December, 1851. In virtue of it, we gave an early and emphatic recognition to the new Kingdom of Italy, in contravention of the historical rights of the Pope, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and a baker’s dozen of sovereign princes. By virtue of it, should the People of Hungary or of Ireland at any time declare themselves independent and expel the officials and the troops of their hereditary rulers, we shall undoubtedly and promptly recognize their separate Nationality and sovereignty. The right and wrong of their quarrel with those rulers is a matter with which we profess to have absolutely nothing to do. We simply state the American doctrine on this point, without caring to argue it. Having bravely and determinedly upheld it in the face of the Holy Alliance and in contempt of all the time-honored canons of European diplomacy, we cannot creditably repudiate it at the very first instance in which it is brought to bear on ourselves, and when all the world seems to be coming round to the position on which we formerly stood alone.

Now look at the case in its main aspects, as it was known in Europe at the moment when Lord John made his demonstration, premising that a foreign minister is not at liberty to discriminate between the late and the present of our quadrennial Administrations. He must deal with our Government as a unit subsisting in perpetuity, and having the sole guardianship of its own consistency.

In December last, the little State of South Carolina professed to secede from, and sever all connection with, the American Union. She thereupon seized the Federal arms and munitions on deposit in the Arsenal at Charleston, the Federal custom-houses within her boundaries–whereof that at Charleston must alone have cost several hundred thousand dollars–the money in the Federal Sub-Treasury, &c., &c.–and went to collecting revenue from imports in those stolen custom-houses in her own name exclusively, and for her own benefit. Of the forts in Charleston harbor, she seized all but the strongest, and closely invested that, planting battery after battery in ever-narrowing circles around it, and repelling by force the only two attempts ever made to replenish its slender stock of provisions. She arrested the U.S. Collector at Georgetown for high treason in attempting to continue the collection of revenue for the Union. The Federal Judge, Collector, &c., at Charleston renounced the service of the Union and entered that of the State. All these doings went on openly, ostentatiously, within two days’ [974] journey, by mail, of the Federal Metropolis, within three days’ steam of New-York; yet not a precept was issued, not a musket leveled, in behalf of the repudiated authority and violated laws of the Nation. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, rapidly following suit, stealing a million dollars from the Mint at New-Orleans, capturing all the forts and arsenals within their limits, save Fort Pickens and the inaccessible island strongholds within the geographical limits of Florida, seizing several Federal vessels and the Navy-Yard at Pensacola, while fully one-third of our little Army, hitherto employed in the defense of the inland frontiers of Texas, was first demoralized and then subjected to a capitulation by its traitorous commander, Twiggs, and even the stipulations made with him in its favor, were ultimately repudiated by his Confederate villains, who thus robbed the troops of their arms, and compelled them to surrender as prisoners of war.

This process went on unresisted, unobstructed, in the face and eyes of an Executive half of whose Ministers were deep in the councils of unequivocal traitors. But Congress also was in session throughout the three Winter months, and did nothing whatever to arrest it. Meantime, half of our Embassadors in Europe were helping on the treason, introducing the emissaries of Jeff. Davis furtively to the ministers of foreign affairs with whom they maintained official relations, and Mr. C. J. Faulkner volunteered a formal assurance to the French Government that no forcible resistance to the progress and triumph of Secession would be made by the Federal Government!

Now we state but the most obvious, undeniable truth when we say that if Austria, or Great Britain, or Russia, had suffered herself in like manner, and without a shadow of resistance, to be divested of Hungary, of Ireland, of Poland, respectively, the other Great Powers would have assumed that the separation was tacitly conceded and final. Authority which does not even try to enforce obedience, power which does not differ practically from impotence, is not understood in Europe–and can we wonder? Suppose Ireland, a single fortress excepted, were to-day free from the presence of a British official or soldier, and had so remained unmolested, unmenaced, for months, would not her independence be acknowledged outright by our Government? How could the natural and urgent demand for such recognition be plausibly resisted?

But a new Administration was installed at Washington three months ago. What then? Was Fort Sumter promptly reënforced and provisioned? Was it even given out that it would be so soon as the necessary force could be collected? Nay; was an expedition at once set on foot–no matter how secretly–to achieve that end? Were loyal collectors [975] appointed for Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, New-Orleans, and Galveston, to replace those who had forfeited if not formally abjured their offices by plunging into treason? Was any attempt promptly made, or even promised, to enforce the revenue laws of the Union in the ports of the disloyal States? The facts are on record. They speak for themselves.

But it is said that Lord John Russell and M. Thouvenel should not have received, even unofficially, the emissaries of our Sepoys. How so? did not Mr. Seward, our own Foreign Minister, hold conference after conference with their counterparts accredited to Washington? The propriety, the policy of so doing, is not now in question. For our own part, we cannot deem it unwise to hear what your adversary has to propose or suggest before proceeding to extremities with him. But it must not be forgotten that if Mr. Jeff. Davis’s envoys were liable to the treatment of traitors anywhere, it was at Washington, not at London or Paris; and that it ill became M. Thouvenel to refuse to receive Americans whom any Plenipotentiary at his Court commended to his distinguished consideration. We strongly suspect, though we do not know, that Messrs. Yancey and Mann were equally favored by Mr. Dallas at London.

What the Unionists of America ask of Europe is simply and only fair play. If with this we cannot thrash the Secessionists into good behavior–promptly, and thereby, conclusively–then we will frankly and heartily acknowledge their independence. They pretend to be accredited and sustained by the Eight Millions of Whites in the seceded States, and thence argue that they cannot be beaten. Their conclusion would be safe is their promises [premises?] were true; but they are not. We feel sure that this War against the Union is the result of years of conspiracy and plotting–that it was fermented by systematic fraud and falsehood–that it has been swelled to its present formidable proportions by wholesale and persistent lying on the stump, lying through the newspapers, and lying by telegraph, until a great portion of the Southern People are utterly deluded and driven to frenzy by assertions that the North envies and hates them, is bent on their destruction by fire, famine, and slaughter, and is raising vast armies to steal their slaves, burn their houses, ravage their fields, and outrage their wives and daughters. Give us a fair chance to disabuse them, and then let them have a fair, peaceful election, and the South would give a Union majority to-morrow, as the election of last Winter clearly indicated. Deceived, maddened as they are, there is still a very large minority of the Southern PEople, and especially of the more intelligent and responsible classes, who still at heart “carry the flag and step to the music of the Union.” Silenced by [976] terrorism, compelled to vote for Secession at the point of the bowie knife, to surrender their property to the horse-leech exactions of the traitors, and even to take up arms in support of treason, they yet sight for the halcyon days of peace and security so “vilely cast away,” and hope for their return through the triumph of the armies now mustering for the defense of the integrity of the Nation. All we ask of Europe is to be well let alone until we shall have had a fair opportunity to demonstrate that inflexible purpose of the American People not to be split up into half a dozen miserable Venezuelas and Nicaraguas, but to maintain the Republic in its entirety and with its recognized geographical limits as they appear on any reputable Atlas or globe. Let the Old World remain strictly neutral, refusing to lend money to either party, or to harbor the priveteers [sic] of either, and if we do not vindicate our right to be a great nation, we will agree to be content with the secondary position to which dismemberment must temporarily consign us. We ask but a clear field and no favor, and may God defend the Right!

Northern Editorials on Secession Volume II, 972-976.

“Will the Union be Preserved?” (Newburyport Daily Herald, May 24, 1861)

363. Will the Union be Preserved?

(Newburyport (Mass.) Daily Herald [Lincoln], May 24, 1861)

Will the Union be Preserved? We have adopted a certain course of proceedure [sic] to suppress rebellion, and whether that course was agreeable to individual parties at the outset or not, it being entered upon, there is but one thing left, to wit: to fight it to the end. Upon this all are agreed. What will be the result, it is impossible for any man to say with certainty. We can only now appreciate and applaud the patriotism thta is ever ready at our country’s call, to sustain a government which has never oppressed but always blessed all that sought its protection. It is a terrible necessity that can demand war between brothers and countrymen; and we can only justify war upon the grounds of that very necessity–that all other expedients have failed, that nothing else will answer, and that this will restore the country to union and peace, to [840] justice and order. Whether it will so result, depends upon facts not yet determined. Is this rebellion, or is it revolution? that is, is it the work of a few who have misled or over-awed the many, or is it the wish and fixed determination of a large majority at the South, that the Union shall be dissolved? is it the result of a temporary and transitory excitement, or is it a conscientious conviction, for which they will suffer and endure?

In our revolution of 1776, Great Britain mistook the nature and character of the contest. They deemed it a rebellion that could be crushed, and thus loyalty restored. It was not simple rebellion, but the firm determination of the people to be separate, free and independent; and when afterwards all else could have been satisfactorily arranged, the colonies would not assent to a re-union to the British crown. They came here and blockaded our ports, defeated our armies, and subdued the country step by step from Bunker Hill to Savannah; but they did not accomplish anything in subduing the people–the unconquerable will still remained, and eventually triumphed. It remains for us to prove whether our conflict arises from a conspiracy on the part of political leaders, in rebellion against the federal government, or is such a struggle on the part of the people that we should denominate it a revolution. If it is the first, defeat in the field will quell it, and the states may return to their allegiance, as stars driven from their orbits for a day, by the laws of gravi[ta]tion on which our solar system rests, come back to repeat their endless rounds about the great center; if it is the latter, battles may be lost or won and it will not restore a government founded upon the voluntary action of the people, in which the states hold their places not as conquered provinces, but as co-equal partners. It is not to be presumed that great states, many of them equal in extent to powerful kingdoms–indeed much beyond any kingdom or empire of Europe, save Russia, and inhabited by millions of freemen, brave, high spirited, energetic and jealous of their rights, can be held together except by voluntary cohesion; and if they could be held together by any other means, it would not be the restoration of the union that had its birth from the revolution of 1776.

There never could be a doubt with any sane man of the ability of the North to march over the South. It cannot be done in a day, as some in their impatience would have it, for it is not so light a task that we may intrust it to raw recruits with a supply of one day’s rations; but it can be done, and if the war continues will be done, giving us possession of every important post in the country. If it were necessary, we could clear off the thousand millions [sic] of square miles so that not a city or [841] cultivated field would remain; we could exterminate the nine millions of white people and re-settle–re-people the lands. There is no want of ability; and if such a work was demanded, there would be no want of a will. Never were twenty millions of people so strong and so well able to bear the losses of war as the twenty millions of the loyal states; never was a nation that could so speedily call into existence armies and fleets. Less than forty days have elapsed since President Lincoln called for troops, and already three hundred thousand have said–we are ready; ships have been offered of all classes and in any numbers; more than a million dollars a day have been actually contributed for the nation’s defence, and any amount tendered on call, while at the same time the national funds have advanced on the markets; arms have been flowing into the country and munitions of war have been accumulated more rapidly than was ever known in the history of any people; and we may therefore say without fear of contradiction, that we are a nation of unparelleled [sic] strength and resources.

There is no doubt at all, then, that we shall defeat the South. But that does not decide the question of the restoration of the union of co-equal States. That Union was not based upon compulsion, and it cannot rest upon force. England can conquer Ireland and hold it, without violence to her constitution; Austria can garrison and retain Venetia, without a change of laws; Russia can incorporate a subjected people, like the Poles, in accordance with her policy; but we cannot have States in such a condition. If the Union is ever restored, South Carolina must be the equal of Massachusetts, and Virginia of New York; and they must remain together of their own will.

Let us understand the nature and aim of this war. It is not one of conquest and subjection; for after peace we should not know what to do with a conquered and subjected people. It is not a war based upon prejudice, passion or revenge; if so, it were unworthy of us and would deserve no support. We have suffered enough and suffered long, but God forbid that we should seek redress in blood. It is not a war for changing any institutions of the seceded States; for that would be a revolution on our part and not theirs. They have the right of local self government and must retain it; and the peculiar institution of slavery could not be overthrown by arms without bringing ruin to the land. It is not a war that looks at disunion as a result. We have been surprised to hear people say–“we’ll whip them and then let them go,” “we will fight, but that fight must end end the Union, for we shall never be on terms to live together again.” If disunion is an inevitable result, no man can justify himself in the waste of blood or treasure in war; nor would the [842] different sections at the close of the war be in so good a condition to arrange terms of separation, as they would to-day.

The only grounds upon which we can justify civil war–so unnatural a war between twin States, between families of the same lineage and blood, who have a common country, a common history, and the same language and religion–is on the ground of its necessity to sustain a government for the good of the whole, that is now threatened by the rebellion of a part. The object is not to overthrow, but to build up; not to destroy, but to restore; not to conquer the people of any State, but to relieve them from the domination of rebel chiefs. If the people deliberately and intelligently determined upon their action in the dozen States that are in rebellion, as did our fathers in the revolution, or if without that deliberation and intelligence, disunion had become a “fixed fact,” from which war could not rescue us, then we might hesitate; but so it is not. Fanatical and ambitious leaders counted upon the weakness of the central government, and upon the aversion of the North to sacrifice in war; and usurping power they precipitated secession. The people were not consulted; they were threatened, and terrified, and bowing themselves for the time submitted. It is to free the people from military despotism and the prevailing terror that our troops are facing southward, that they may bring States back untrammelled to anchor in the Union and fasten to the Constitution. We see how this is being done; Baltimore has been relieved of mobs, and Maryland swings back to her old place in the line; St. Louis was rescued from the grasp of a traitor governor, and Missouri resumes her upright position; Col. Anderson goes to Kentucky, and before he reaches the State the legislature requires the troops to swear allegiance to the national constitution; Western Virginia hails the stars and stripes and is sanguine that she can bring back that State; Tennessee is in the secession net, but Johnson and Etheridge and Nelson feel sure of the people. All through the Border States the tide has turned; and our troops instead of being surrounded by enemies as they advance, will be hailed as friends and deliverers. North Carolina that went out unanimously, will find an uprising of her own people; and so it will be in every State till the home of Sam Houston is reached, and his bugle notes call the people to duty along the valley of the Rio Grande.

We feel that our government is in the right and must succeed, though not with a light struggle or a speedy victory; and this is the only ground–that they go as deliverers of the people of the South, and the defenders not only of the National Constitution and of all their local interests on which we could be right. [sic] If we admit that it is to restore them to any [843] thing less than that full and perfect condition in which they have heretofore been, as co-equal states and self-governing communities, then we should have no more justification for hte shedding of one drop of human blood than has Jefferson Davis or Beauregard.

Northern Editorials on Secession Volume II, 839-843.