The Editorials on Secession Project
President Lincoln’s Proclamation
Washington States and Union, April 15, 1861
Elsewhere we publish a Proclamation issued by President Lincoln, and called forth by the state of affairs precipitated on the people by himself and his cabinet.
First, the Lincoln government creates civil war, and then the chief of that government issues a proclamation disavowing the responsibility of fratricidal bloodshed, and calling on the country to sustain him in coercing several sovereign States into allegiance to a party that undisguisedly and boastfully outraged the constitutional compact which bound the United States together.
The Republican party wilfully, wantonly, and maliciously, broke the bond of Union, and now the Republican President of the unconstitutional section of the States issues a proclamation for civil war to keep the Union together.
The boldness of this maneuvre [sic] would inspire that involuntary respect which magnificent audacity ever creates; but that the systematic duplicity which reaches its culminating point in this remarkable document, will force from every conservative man a most unqualified expression of sorrow, if not of positive contempt.
The Proclamation can be read in no other light than that of a declaration of invasion of the Confederate States, and the provincial degradation of every State that sympathizes with them or declares its acquiescence with those immortal rights of man which formed the basis of our defiance of Great Britain, and the secession of the original States from the government of their fathers.
Mr. Lincoln avows his purpose to be to maintain a “National Union and the perpetuity of popular government.” National Union, forsooth! If a National Union existed, or was likely to exist, would there be any necessity for a sectional Administration to go to war? A Union, to be national, must be in its own elements rational, so that a fraternal feeling 765
may be exercised and recognized as a basis of mutual respect and self-preservative action.
How can a union of States be made national, when one portion attempts to force its sectional idea of nationality on the other at the point of the bayonet and by the thunders of cannon? This may be a Republican mode of preaching nationality: but the reason, the sense of justice of the American People, as a mass, will quickly decide between a military despotism, which invokes its powers in the insulted name of National Union; and the true spirit of State-rights Democracy, (from which alone any nationality can spring,) against which these powers are directed.
“The perpetuity of popular government” is another of Mr. Lincoln’s proclaimed desires. Where is the popular government to perpetuate? Is government to be made popular by provincializing half the Territory over which it is hoped to extend it? Is a government to be made popular by attempting to subjugate the States which had so little faith in the past or prospective honesty of the now dominant party that it would not give it a single vote? Is government to be made popular by forcing the people it seeks to govern into active resistance to its virulent declarations and violent acts? Is a government to be made popular by denying to those from whom it would force allegiance, the right to think, the right to differ, the liberty to act, and the privilege to speak? In a word, is a government to be made popular by encouraging hate, discord and revenge, by its processes of double-dealing and coercion against those with whom, it impiously tells the world, it desires to form a National Union?
Such a mode of popularizing a government is certainly new, and we doubt not the Lincoln government would not object to its perpetuation. But the American People will have something to say, both on such a system of popularizing “government” on this continent, and perpetuating the government made popular in such a manner.
Mr. Lincoln further commands the Confederates States “to disperse and retire” “within twenty days from this date.” He also calls for seventy-five thousand men to be at his disposal, and convenes the two houses of Congress to meet on the fourth of July next, to confer on such measures as they may deem necessary.
Now what is President Lincoln to do with his seventy five thousand additional men, from the fifth of May, when the twenty days’ notice will have expired, to the fourth of July, when the war-making power is to assemble in the Capitol? Will he set the border on fire, and carry devastation, rapine, and bloodshed along the line already so distinctively marked in a political sense[?] He has two months of absolute despotic control in which to signalize himself and sacrifice those who may unwittingly swear themselves to the immolation of their brethren.
In this state of affairs, the Border States cannot act too promptly. While they are thinking what to do the coercionists are acting. While the Border States are dreaming the coercionists are sleepless; and before the former are thoroughly awake the sentinel may be at their doors and the torch to the roof tree.
Anti-coercionists all over the country—those who have raised their voices for Peace—should stand firm. They should not be shaken from their high purpose by any spasmodic use of national phrases, by those who desire to plunge the country in a war of the sections, by an unnatural and insulting policy of coercion.
Every man who feels like an American citizen must abhor the word “coercion” as an insult to institutions which gave him a position in the civilized world, and an outrage on the common sense and common decency of the nineteenth century.
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