What We Are Fighting For
Roxbury Norfolk County Journal, May 4, 1861
The present contest has not been provoked by the Free States. This portion of the Union has exhibited a forbearance towards its assailants, an endurance of repeated and heaped-up insults, which is without a precedent in the history of intelligent and self-respecting nations. It has drawn the sword in the end with the utmost reluctance, and after every conceivable means, short of giving up the government itself, had been resorted to to avert the issue.
But the dread arbitration of arms having been accepted, the day of forbearance is now over and gone. The war having commenced, the people of the Free States are determined that it shall be prosecuted with untiring vigor, and that its end shall see accomplished the crushing out of rebellion, and security and permanence for the present generation of the American republic. To this end all their energies are enlisted, and they will be satisfied with nothing short of its accomplishment.
This feeling is confined to no party. One or two newspapers which were forced into an advocacy of the Northern side of the question, have timidly suggested a defensive war, and hinted at hopes of an early compromise. Such views have been scouted by the very men who have been in the habit of following their lead. The idea of compromise with traitors is hateful now to men of all parties. They will not listen to it for a moment in connection with those in arms against the government. Every man instinctively feels that the moment has at last arrived for crushing out treason, and asserting the supremacy of law and the constitution. It is to this end that thousands and tens of thousands are rushing to the field of battle, and that millions of the capital of the North are being pledged to the government.
The South have clamored for years, in Congress, about the attacks upon their peculiar institution. They have had no reason for this in the past:—we can hold out no such assurances for the future. It is just as well for them to understand, in advance, that in the struggle which is impending their pet institution has got to go under. The rule of the Slave power in America is at length ended. We do not mean by this that the North has yet made up its mind to abolish the institution. Slavery may endure for many years after the present controversy in arms shall have been settled. But as a ruling power its doom is sealed. Its own blind, besotted arrogance has proved its ruin. If it exists hereafter, it will be as an admitted evil, temporary in its nature, and to be known in our government only as an institution which is to be looked upon as in process of extinction.
It may be that all members of the late parties at the North are not yet prepared to take this view of the question; but we are confident they will come to it before the contest is ended. Capital, with the sagacious eye of self-interest, sees it already. It recognizes Slavery as the disturbing element in our government. It identifies the institution as solely responsible for the revolution which is now convulsing the business of the country, and sacrificing its property by millions. It sees that we shall never be secure till the reign of the Slave power is ended, and hence it feels it to be of the most vital necessity that this should be accomplished. He who looks upon this as the old contest of Slavery and anti-Slavery does not begin to realize the stage which the question has reach[ed]. While Slavery had only to encounter a religious or sentimental opposition at the North, its enemy was formidable—as among an intelligent and Christian people it must always be; but it was as nothing compared to the foe it is now called on to encounter. Slavery has at length become recognized as a revolutionary element in the government. It is a power which is dreaded by all classes—by the religion, the morality, the wealth, the intelligence of the nation. It has become the admitted foe of republican sentiments, and our people are at length satisfied that there is no hope for permanency to free institutions while it continues. Its downfall therefore is a prime necessity.
In view of these facts, it is of no use for the North to assert now that it does not war upon Slavery. It must war upon it, if it hopes to sustain the government. Slavery and this government are in direct antagonism; and Slavery itself has had the blind fatuity to make up the issue. We fight for the single purpose to put down the malignant influence of this institution, and when that is accomplished everything is gained. It is that only which has warred against the government—which has attempted the subversion of free institutions; and when the victory over that is gained, ourselves and our government will be without an enemy. But it must be something more than a nominal victory. It must be a conquest—a complete subversion of the power of the malign enemy of our freedom. It must be a settlement which shall endure for generations, and which if it do not exterminate the offender, shall so bind him that his power for mischief is gone forever.
When this result is accomplished, and not before—our country will again have a free course to run and be glorified, and true Republican principles will resume their sway in the Western continent.