Duty of Union Men in the Border Slave States
Washington National Republican, January 18, 1861
It is none too soon for the men in the border slave States, who wish to preserve the Union, to give up all illusions, and address themselves with resolution and energy to the work before them. Quite enough of precious time has been wasted in dreaming of impossible adjustments, and the difficulties have only been increased by exciting popular expectations of that sort. The truth must be looked in the face. The party which has elected Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, and which is about to come into power, will not destroy itself by abandoning or compromising its principles. It refuses, as Mr. Jefferson did, to "take the Government by capitulation." Nothing else could have been expected, and nothing else will happen.
These principles of the Republican party, luminously set out in the Chicago Platform, guaranty all the rights of the South as concerns their domestic institutions, protection from interference, protection from invasion, and the rendition of fugitive slaves. If Union men in the slave States cannot maintain themselves on that basis, they must go down. Not one single inch will the Republicans advance in the direction of recognising, establishing, or protecting slavery in the Territories, in any latitude, or under any circumstances whatever. There never was the least good ground for misapprehending their position on these points, and any possibility of misapprehension is now ended by the unanimous repudiation of Mr. Crittenden's propositions by the Republicans in the Senate, and which will be equally unanimous and emphatic in the House, whenever a vote is reached in that body.
We have had quite enough of a sort of Unionism at the South, which is nothing but contingent disunion, and disunion upon a contingency, always certain to happen, and which has now actually happened. The question is not, who is for the Union, if they can have the Constitution remodeled to suit them. Jeff. Davis and Mr. Toombs are both ready for that. But the question is, who is for the Union as it is, under the old Constitution of 1787?
To all such, of whatever party, in Maryland, in Virginia, in this District, and in every slave State not already drawn into the vortex of revolution, our urgent entreaty is, that they go to work forthwith, and work without ceasing. Address the people. Circulate documents. Show the madness of disunion. If men complain that fugitive slaves are not returned with sufficient promptness, tell them that the whole right of reclaiming them, is lost by disunion. If men complain that Congress will not protect slavery in the Territories, reply, that Congress does not prohibit it, that as yet, the courts sustain it, and that the worst that can happen to slaveholders in the Union in respect to the Territories, is sure to happen at once and irretrievably as the result of disunion, which yields everything to the North. If men complain that public sentiment at the North is unfavorable to slavery, show them, that with disunion, which cuts off all political means of influence at the North, this adverse public sentiment will become more virulent and more dangerous.
Show up the misery of every sort which secession has already inflicted upon South Carolina. Point them to the social disorganization all through the Gulf States, the reign of the mob, the depreciation of property, the stoppage of trade, and the widespread bankruptcy.
Expose the miserable delusion that secession can be peaceable, or that it is anything else than a revolution, which cannot be successful. Let them know, that the coming administration, backed by twenty millions of people, is determined to collect the revenue, whether its collection be resisted by one State, by two States, or by fifteen States.
Expose, also, that refuge of imbecility, that the border States have no option but to secede, because the Gulf States have seceded. Show them that the Gulf States would never have entered upon this career, but for the assured hope of support from the border States, and that, if that hope fails, they must beat a retreat. It is the border States who are the masters of the situation. Their destinies are in their own hands.
In short, waste no more time in the vain pursuit of unattainable compromises, but rouse yourselves to the work of saving your property, your families, and everything that you prize, from the swift destruction which will engulf all, if this mischief of disunion is not stayed. Confront its emissaries everywhere, on the stump, on the cross-roads, in the highways, and in the by-ways. Consider nothing done, so long as anything remains to be done. To quote words never used for a more urgent occasion, if you are asleep, awake! If you are standing, move! If you are moving, run! If you are running, fly to the rescue!