The causes of the present troubles in our political system, and of the threatened disruption of the Federal Union, lie deeper, and wax stronger, upon investigation. It is easy to say that the North should repeal its “personal liberty bills,” and that the South should be satisfied with the Congressional majority under the control of Union men, but when we come to look to the origin of our sectional difficulties, and examine into the conduct of the people at large we find that the real cause of alarm is to be found in the mistaken public sentiment which pervades the people of the Northern States. To this we must go for a solution of the questions which now agitate the country, and seriously threaten the existence of the Government.

We are aware of the thanklessness of the undertaking, which sometimes forces itself upon the conscientious journalist, of running counter to public opinion, and of exposing the errors and the follies which have taken root in the public mind. It is easier to go with the current, and to float down the stream of time lazily and sluggishly, without any effort to resist the evils which sometimes fasten upon the minds of communities; but such is not the duty of men in public position, whether of an official or other character, and as we have more than once been compelled, by the stern dictates of duty, to stem the tide of error, so now, it shall not be said that we shrink from the responsibility, in the hour of our country’s trials and dangers. To rebuke acknowledged vice and criminal actions is an easy task, since it is but echoing the voice of all good citizens, but to beard the monster, public sentiment, when he appears under the guise of humanity, of morality, and of philanthropy, is quite a different affair.

We assume that the fundamental mistake of the people of the North, the fatal error which has led to most of the troubles now pressing like an incubus upon the country, consists in that meddlesome spirit which prompts them to interfere with the affairs of other communities, and to seek to regulate and control them as they rightfully do their own. They seem to consider it their mission to dictate to the people of the South what shall be the character of their domestic institutions, what the relations of master and servant, and how all their matters shall be regulated, precisely as they act upon the same questions at home within their own proper jurisdiction. They forget, first, that they have no business with these questions, and that Southern men have a right to complain of their meddlesome interference; and secondly, that conceding their premises that slavery is wrong, it is but a few years since they were themselves involved in the guilt, and would not even now be rid of it except by the concurring circumstances of climate and production, which render it unprofitable in the Northern States. The extraordinary idea appears to have seized upon the public mind, in most of the free States, that it is the mission of the people of those States to correct what they deem the wrongs of other sections of the Union, and hence they have set about the task in a most censorious spirit, and a manner deeply offensive to those whom they seek to influence.

It is not necessary here to discuss the abstract question of the rightfulness or the wrongfulness of slavery. Our mouths are closed upon this point by the folly of Northern men, who have undertaken to correct the assumed errors of the citizens in other portions of the country, and thus have silenced the public voice upon this issue, by raising the more vital one of the right of every community to judge of its own proper course, and of every State of this Confederacy to determine its own policy and the system of social and political economy, which it will legalize and maintain. When we entered the Federal Union and became parties to the Federal compact, we surrendered to the General Government such powers as were essential to provide for the general good, and to give to the United States the strength needful to maintain its rank and position among the powers of the earth, but we reserved to the States respectively the control of their immediate domestic affairs, and especially the control of the whole subject of African slavery within their borders. And we agreed, as a constitutional right between the several States, that “fugitives from service or labor,” escaping from one State to another, should be surrendered by the State to which they had fled, on claim being made by their owners. Now if this provision means anything, it certainly means that when slaves from one State escape into another, they shall be freely and honestly surrendered, and all reasonable facilities afforded, for carrying into effect the provision in question. If it does not mean this, then were we guilty, in subscribing to it and ratifying the Constitution in which it is contained, of a fraud and a cheat, unworthy of the character of honest and Christian men.

What is our practice in this respect? How have we discharged this solemn Constitutional obligation? Have we lived up to our deliberate agreement, and fulfilled our engagement toward our sister States? These are questions of self examination, self-inquiry, which every honest man should put to himself in this time of excitement and of national peril. We make no application of our remarks to individuals, but as communities and as States, it is notoriously true that we have failed to abide by the compact made at the formation of the Government, and have placed in the way of its fulfillment all the obstacles which we have been able to throw around it. In many States laws have been passed, expressly designed to prevent its full and complete operation, hedging it about with difficulties and offering inducements to every citizen of such States to practically resist the execution of the laws of Congress designed to carry into effect the obligations imposed upon us by the Constitution. But it is not in these State laws, infamous as some of them are, that we find the most serious obstacles to the full discharge of our Constitutional engagements. The difficulty lies deeper than State legislation. It is to be found imbedded in the public sentiment of the New England and many other Northern States. The people have been educated, through the agency of a sectional press, and a sectional pulpit, to a code of morality which teaches that meddling with the rights and affairs of others is not only a privilege but a Christian duty; that the most solemn and deliberate agreements may be broken when they stand in the way of the modern standard of governmental relations; that to deprive sovereign States of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, and individuals of the possession of property which, by the Federal compact, we have promised to return to them when found within their borders, is an act of philanthropy, fully justified by the standard of religious teachings now recognized by a large proportion of the people.

Instead of inquiring what duties and obligations we owe to others, and how we can most surely and effectually discharge them, we undertake to pronounce upon the question of slavery, in its moral and religious aspects, not as a question of right or wrong for us, but for other communities having separate governments and laws to regulate their conduct in this respect, and then we go to work as law makers—as Executive officers and private citizens, to see how the laws of Congress can be rendered null by our action, and the provisions of the Constitution negatived through our agency.

In common with others, we have recommended and urged the repeal of the State laws in conflict with the statutes of the United States, and the honest fulfillment of all our obligations respecting the return of fugitives, measures of the first importance, if we expect to maintain the Union of the States, and preserve intact our present form of Government. But this is not all. We must go farther, beginning with the people themselves, and demand not only of every public functionary, but of every citizen, that moral support without which no remedy, however powerful the legal pains or penalties, can be of the slightest avail. We must demand from the press and the pulpit the inculcation of lessons of honesty and morality, and we must insist that they shall abandon the new-fangled doctrine, that to rob our neighbor of his slave, or to prevent his return, is a Christian duty, while the repudiation of a deliberate contract between the parties to the confederacy of States, is also considered a compliance with our duty to God and to man. We must return to the golden rule of doing to others as we would that they should do unto us, and thus render unto States and individuals that equal and exact justice which is due from one State or person to another.

Such a reform in the public sentiment of the Northern States will cure the evils now existing, but which, if unchecked, will surely overthrow the Government. We dare not hope for the change, and yet we do not believe that, without it, the Union can last for any considerable time. Great responsibilities rest upon the people of both sections—the North and the South—but the former (as the aggressors) owe it to themselves, to justice, and to public faith and honor, to correct their own errors before demanding of the latter submission to new demands or additional injuries. Let us first pull out the beam from our own eye, before complaining of the mote in our brother’s eye.