Shall the Border Slave States Be Retained in the Union?
Columbus Daily Ohio Statesman, March 30, 1861
Several States have formally dissolved their connection with the Federal Union. There are still Union men in those States, but they are evidently in a small minority. From the disposition manifested by the leaders of the secession movement in the Cotton States, and by the leaders of the now dominant Republican party in the North, it is not to be expected that any successful attempt will be made, at least for years to come, if at all, for a reconstruction of the Union. The seven States that have gone out will probably remain out. We have got, then, to look this fact boldly in the face and accept it, unpleasant, embarrassing and destructive as it may seem.
A dissolution of the Union, temporary, if not perpetual, so far as seven States are concerned, is beginning to be looked upon as inevitable. The radical Republicans rejoice over it with a glow of exultation; the more moderate men of that party think the Administration will be compelled to acknowledge formally, as it has already done informally, the independence of the Southern Confederacy; and the idea is fast taking hold of men's minds of all parties that nothing will be done by the existing Federal Administration or the new Republican Congress to restore the seceded States to the Union.
Seven States having gone out, there are twenty-seven yet left nominally, if not really, in the Union. Of these twenty-seven States, eight are slaveholding, and are now usually spoken of as the Border Slave States. These States, as we frequently demonstrated during the pendency of the last Presidential election, have really greater cause of complaint against the North than the more Southern States that have seceded. Still in these Border States, the Union sentiment is strong, and a majority of the people in most, if not in all of them, would gladly remain in the United States, if they could do so with a reasonable assurance of safety to their persons, their property and their institutions.
After LINCOLN'S election, and after the secession movement in the extreme South had begun, the Union men in the Border Slave States looked anxiously to Congress in the hope that it would do something for the adjustment of our national difficulties, so that they could with safety and honor still abide in the Union. When this hope failed them, they turned their eyes to the Peace Conference assembled at Washington. Some of their leaders went so far as to promise that if the propositions of this Conference were not satisfactory, or, if satisfactory, were not acceded to by the North before the inauguration of LINCOLN, they would advocate a separation from the Union.
The propositions of the Peace Conference were submitted to Congress, and, from the opposition of Republican members, could not command sufficient votes to make them of any avail. The rejection of these propositions increased, as was to be expected, the secession feeling in the Border States. Subsequent events, since LINCOLN's inauguration, especially the inefficient, do nothing course of his Administration, have tended still further to augment this feeling, till it is now questionable whether in several of the Border States there is not a majority of the people in favor of immediate secession.
It seems now quite certain that if the dominant party in the North, speaking and acting through the Administration at Washington, maintains its present indifference to, and disregard of, the urgent appeals of the Border States for reasonable protection and guarantees, they will soon either join the Southern Confederacy, or, throwing themselves upon their independent State sovereignty, assume and maintain an attitude of resistance to, and defiance of, the Federal Government. What will then follow we leave to the imagination of our readers. It is too sad a thought to dwell upon.
If anything is going to be done to retain the Border Slave States in the Union, it must be done quickly. This is the last hope to which, as Union men, we can now cling. Shall we see this ruthlessly torn away? From Eastern Virginia, from North Carolina, Arkansas and other Northern Slave States, the news comes that Union men are beginning to give up the hope, long cherished, that some reasonable concessions would be made, and to openly advocate secession. It is for the people in the North to decide whether these States shall be retained in the Union. If they remain, they will be, since seven Slave States have seceded, in a small minority. There is, therefore, a more urgent reason why their rights should be guaranteed. From the present Administration nothing is to be expected. But the people of the North can, if they will only arouse to its importance, take such action as will convince the Border States that, if they remain loyal to the Union, they shall have all the guarantees they can reasonably ask. If this is not done, we see nothing that can save the country from general anarchy and ruin. If the Border States separate from the Union, there will be for a time—no one can tell how long—an end of everything like settled government, and as a consequence, universal disaster and bankruptcy.