“Why cannot you of the North let us go in peace?” is a question which has been deprecatingly addressed to leading men in the free States, by scores of the more conservative men of the South, who, though predisposed to be loyal to the Constitution and the Union, yet dread war and despair of our ability effectually to put down the rebellion. To all such inquirers our answer is plain and conclusive:—We cannot let them go, and we dare not let them go. We cannot let them go without violating our sworn obligations to protect the rights of the loyal portion of the South, and we dare not let them go because we cannot do so without recognizing the heretic and dangerous doctrines of secession which, if once admitted, must shortly result in the dismemberment and final destruction of our Government in the rest of the Union. However overawed by the mobs, which the secession leaders, by playing upon old prejudices and foully misrepresenting the intentions of our people and their Administration, have wrought up to dangerous madness, full half of the whole South, there is good reason to believe, are yet loyal in heart, and secretly praying for the restoration of law and order under our Constitution. Now have the oppressed and suffering people of this great class who have hitherto been altogether the best element of Southern society, no claims on our Government for protection and for the vindication of the rights which the Constitution has sacredly guaranteed to them? And how can we of the North, without absolutely foreswearing ourselves, refuse to take action for insuring them the protection which they desire, and to which they are so certainly entitled at our hands? We cannot. Not only every patriot, but every good citizen, must unite in saying no, we cannot—we cannot. This alone furnishes a complete justification of our Government in its determination to know no stopping till every recreant State is made, for its own, as well as the general good, to resume its Constitutional obligations and again take its place in the Union.

Again we dare not let them go. Suppose we should do so—suppose we should allow them to establish a permanent Government, based, as it would be, on the destructive doctrines of Secession, Repudiation, and the toleration of mob law and violence, which would soon make them as lawless and aggressive as the Arabs of the desert, how long could we live by the side of them without a re-opening of the war,—and a war too, as the old disturbing element of Slavery would still remain and lead to reprisals for escaping slaves from one party, and counter reprisals on the other—a war too, that would be interminable? Nor would that be all. The Government so permitted to be established and become independent, would be likely soon to form alliances with some of the rival powers of Europe, and then we might have a war on our hands which would exhaust us to a weakness, which would make us the prey of every grasping Nation, and end in the entire subversion of our Northern Republic. No, no, this must never be. Our own salvation is at stake in the present issue. And whether we take the ground of duty to protect the loyal portion of the South, or the one of our nearer interest of saving ourselves from ruin, or both these grounds, there is but one way for us,—that of going on and finishing up the work we have begun of crushing this rebellion into the earth so effectually that another shall never follow it.

And in the name of all that is honest and consistent, what wrong shall we do the South in enforcing a compliance with their Constitution [al] obligations? Those obligations were deliberately and cheerfully assumed by themselves. What wrong then to strive to prevent them from committing the crime of violating them? What wrong is it to compel men to live up to their sacred promises? None. If that would be a wrong, then it would be wrong to keep men from committing perjury, or any other crime against society or themselves, even to the commission of suicide. If that were wrong, then the whole moral code that has governed the world from the first dawn of civilization is wrong, and should be renounced, and abolished as a rule of action by every Nation and people on earth.