Our Experiment

Des Moines Iowa State Journal, December 8, 1860

For over three quarters of a century we have been testing the question whether man was capable of self-government. The despots of the Old World have watched the issue of the matter with ill disguised uneasiness. But within the last few years a spirit of intolerance, first developed under the cloak of Americanism, and rapidly merged into sectional hatred against the South, has relieved their anxiety, and they no longer fear the result of the experiment. A party has arisen at the North and South who dispute the right of the people to govern themselves, and claim the doctrine of legislation without representation to be the true doctrine of the day. In other words, that the States must govern the Territories, as Great Britain governed the colonies. History will, in some such words as these, describe this epoch: "The struggle came; a band of patriotic men stood boldly forth in defense of the doctrine of self-government—but were overpowered by numbers.

["]A hireling press and a rabble rapacious after office, carried all before them. Foreign emissaries corrupted with British gold, the fountains of civil liberty, and the ministers of God, with here and there an exception, lent their aid to the work, believing, in the language of Puul, 'they were doing God's service.' They achieved their purpose, and elected one Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. Without experience or known executive ability, no confidence was placed, by those who opposed his election, in his administration. Elected by the votes of a section, he was expected to carry on the government in strict accordance with their views. The other section, who had run a candidate of their own, and been defeated, declared these views to be hostile to the intent of the founders of the Republic—refused to acquiesce, and demanded a dissolution of the States. The Union men of both sections, who had stood up for the doctrine of self-government and obedience to the Constitution, were crushed by the torrent of sectional animosities and fanaticism. The country was rent asunder, and upon its ruins were formed a series of petty Republics! These, actuated by mutual jealousies toward each other, and incapable, from sheer inability, of accomplishing anything either good or bad, each depending upon foreign aid for assistance in their continual broils;—gradually sank into insignificance and utter dependence upon some European potentate, until the last ray of Democracy and religious liberty faded into darkness, and the American Republic took its position among the experiments of the past."