False Gratulations

Kentucky Statesman, May 8, 1860

It is difficult to reconcile the exultant gratification of the southern opposition[1] at the dissensions which threaten the future concentration of the democratic vote of the country upon a single Presidential candidate with a dutiful loyalty to the South and a proper hostility to Black Republicanism. It is manifest, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Democratic party is the only organization which stands between the Republicans and the public offices of the Government. Divisions in the Democratic party, and all that tends to break its harmony or impair its strength, enhances the chance of the Republicans. Yet the Abolitionists of the North did not receive the news of the dissensions at Charleston, with more expressions of joy nor exult over the split in that Convention with more deep-felt delight than did the oppositionists of Kentucky. There seems to be a common bond of sympathy between these factions, which leads each to prefer the success of the other to the further ascendancy of Democracy. We would scorn to appeal for sympathy to our opponents here in the troubles which now threaten our party, and through its defeat, in our opinion, imperil our confederacy. We do not protest against their affiliation with the freesoilers and anti-slavery men of the North. Their hostility to Democratic men and measures, their intense and implacable hatred to Democracy, and their untiring efforts to break down the Democratic party, are all legitimate and natural. Not a murmur should escape the lips of a Democrat, and no cry for quarter should be heard in the Democratic camp. But we have the right to demand of these opponents that, they should avow their affiliation, that they should admit the inevitable consequences of their course and assume the responsibilities of the position they take. And this responsibility they will be compelled to meet before the people of Kentucky. Let them avow their sympathy with the Republicans, and let them come out boldly and manfully, and say that, they prefer the election of Seward or Bates or McLean to that of any southern Democrat. Such is the meaning of their present exultations. They cannot rejoice at the prospect of Democratic defeat, and at the same time disavow all affiliation with the Abolitionists. They cannot herald with joy and shouts of triumph, the defeat of Democratic candidates in the free States and withhold their sympathy from their victorious Republican competitors. They cannot rejoice at the disruption of the Charleston Convention and foretell with deep gratification, the overthrow of the Democratic party, without at the same time espousing the Republican cause, and confessing their desire for its success. Every Democratic defeat at the North and every word of dissension in the Democratic convention enures to the benefit of Republicanism. The southern opposition, when expressing pleasure at Democratic discomfiture, at the same time exhibit a desire for Republican success. They cannot escape the dilemma. The political forces of the country are too well organized, and the issue too well defined. Then we say to them rejoice, exult and shout as loudly and long as you will, but don’t attempt to conceal your sympathy with the Abolition party of the North. Laugh and chuckle as you will at our misfortunes, ring your peals of victory in our ears, and proclaim your heartfelt joy, but don’t stultify yourselves and insult the intelligence of the reader by denying that you prefer the selection of a Republican to a Democratic President. Rejoice, but rejoice as becomes intelligent men, understanding the consequences of the events which elicit your utterances of gratification and willing [ness] to espouse the triumphant cause before the people. In a word, exult as much as you may over Democratic defeats, and we, for one, will not murmur a word of complaint if you at the same time avow, like men, your sympathy with Republicanism, and your desire that the Government shall be transferred to the hands of the anti-slavery party.

It is vile nonsense, the merest folly to talk about a third party. It is insulting to the intelligence of the American people to attempt to organize any party which shall ignore the slavery question. That issue must be met and settled. The cry of “Union” will not rally a corporal’s guard, unless upon a platform in which this question is met in every phase, and all its issues, clearly and explicitly enunciated.—It is no part of patriotism to shut the eye to present dangers; conservatism does not turn its back upon disturbing questions which demand adjustment. True patriotism meets with intelligence the exigencies of the times, and conservatism grapples with threatening difficulties. The subject of domestic slavery now overshadows every other issue in American politics, and its consideration cannot be escaped in the pending national canvass. The coming Presidential election will turn upon that question, and it is quite time all men had determined their course. All the “Conservatives” of the land cannot quiet the troubled sea of politics. The rallying cry of Union will fall unheard in the tumult.

All attempts to raise up a third party to the issue, any effort to intervene a power between the great contestants and arrest the trial of strength, will be vain and fruitless. The hope, possibly honestly indulged by some, that a new party can be organized to wrest the Government from both the contending parties, will be illusory and worse than illusory. It may turn the scale of victory but nothing more.

The Baltimore Convention and its action will scarce exert a perceptible influence upon the political fortunes of the country.—Its candidates will not contend for the prize. It may distract the southern forces and weaken the combination of southern States now so important to their safety.—It may determine the victory between the great contending parties, but there its influence will end.

The third party movement has derived no strength from the threatening dissensions in the Democratic party. It may add to the trouble, and yet further divide the forces of the South, but nothing that has occurred or that it can accomplish, will enure to its advantage. It is but a Hessian band of intruders, capable of annoying the contending armies, but not esteemed by either worth the price at which it holds its alliance.

1. This alludes to that element, styling itself Constitutional Unionist, which soon afterward put the Bell-Everett ticket into the field.