The Separation of New York City from the State
New York Daily News, December 22, 1860
If a division of the Union shall unhappily take place, and a Northern and [a] Southern Confederacy be formed, the independence of New York City will be an object exceedingly desirable, not only to the interests of its citizens, but also to those of the State and the Whole of the North. New York must preserve, as far as possible, its condition as the center of a free and neutral commerce. It will thus be a bond of peace and continued commercial relations between the two separated Confederacies. Is it not better for the North, that New York should be the market for the South than Liverpool or Havre, and that the trade of the Gulf States should bind them in American rather than European alliances? This must be conceded, and our views on this subject, we submit, are approved by the large majority of the substantial and wealthy men of the city, as well as by the equally patriotic masses of her population.
The strictures of The Herald and The Journal of Commerce with reference to the spirit and objects of the views expressed in this paper on the subject of a separation from the State are not well founded. We did, indeed, characterize the past action of the party that holds the majority in the State as unjust, tyrannical and oppressive. We denounce them as ravening wolves and robbers, and no language can describe the infamy and injustice that we have suffered. We did not, however, counsel armed resistance or violence in order to effect the revolution in our political relations to the State. There is a mode pointed out in the Constitution to effect the formation or erection of new States out of the territory of a State; and in case of the establishment of two or more confederacies it will render the division of New York politically expedient, if not necessary, to secure a proper balance in the Confederacy to which she may belong. As for coercion and physical force, we turn from them with horror and disgust. We shall never cease using all our efforts to prevent such a hateful result, with reference to the seceding States of the South, if that policy is adopted, and we are equally opposed to render New York the scene of excesses similar to those which have taken place in the capital and cities of unhappy Mexico. But the unanimous demand of the people of this city, high and low, rich and poor, which will inevitably follow the continuance of the outrages of the last five years could not be disregarded by the rest of the State. A moral and political revolution will ensue that must eventuate in the creation of an independent State, and the first anti-fanatical Legislature will consent to the emancipation of the city and its vicinity from further control. All then required will be the sanction of Congress, and thus the proper authorities will legally and orderly ratify the popular movement.
The position of Hamburg and the free cities of Germany has not been mean, nor has their influence been other than beneficial to German nationality and prosperity. If these seats of commercial freedom were tolerated in the midst of feudalism for the blessings they diffused, and the rights of the burghers respected by robber barons and ambitious princes, New York will surely be allowed to occupy a similar relation here to the agricultural and manufacturing populations of the interior—the channel of their trade with the rest of the world. Nature has made New York what she is, and no jealous legislation could force the current of trade in any other direction, any more than it could turn the tide of the noble Hudson backward, and dry up the Bay that forms our harbor.
The movement which may be made, and will be agitated in the event either of continued aggression on New York City or the dissolution of the existing political fabric, should be fairly discussed on its merits, and not be linked with personal appeals against its assumed author. The taunts of The journal are unjust. It is not agrarianism to feed the famine struck inhabitants of a great city by extending assistance through the agency of the public authorities. The plenteous harvest just garnered may be sealed from thousands in our city if business is suspended and public confidence destroyed. If it be agrarianism to seek means of affording employment and providing bread for these sufferers, then we are not ashamed of the opprobrious title.
We do not fear the patriotism and intelligence of the honest and hard working masses of New York; they do not form the material for mobs or a revolution of force and terrorism. Witness the order with which our population enjoys the recreations in the Central Park, and how the poor man and his family participate in those innocent pleasures with his richer fellow-citizen. Rapacious politicians may carry on schemes of plunder and be indifferent to the rights and interests of our property owners, but the peace and prosperity of New York will find no truer defenders than her mechanics and laborers. They will not destroy the beauty of Washington Heights or diminish the security of the capital which forms the basis of the trade by which they live.
We earnestly protest against the evil effects of the partial and unjust legislation of the last few years. It has been robbery under color of law. It is only paralleled by the aggressions which are drifting the South into secession, and we cannot help it if like causes produce like effects. The desire of separation is general, and if realized it must prove most advantageous to our city. It is neither unreasonable nor impracticable, and its attainment by peaceful and legal means is worthy of the attention of every New Yorker.