Fearful and Perilous Times

Allentown Democrat, January 9, 1861

Thoughtful people upon every side are concerned about the future, for it is shrouded in darkness and doubt. It seems that every day involves the country into new and dangerous issues. At first it was not considered in much danger, but things have grown worse rapidly. The Union is in danger. It never was in a greater one. The action of South Carolina has produced the effect we sadly anticipated, and three or four other southern states seem inclined to defend the seceding one by following her example. In this delicate moment—a moment demanding the exercise of all the forbearance, public spirit, and patient endurance of which a Christian people ought to be capable—what do we witness? Northern journals discuss the propriety of resorting to arms; northern legislators calmly suggest an immediate call of the militia of northern states; southern presses and politicians indulge in the most exciting displays of local independence, and southern executives take possession of United States property. Do any of these things suggest an amicable adjustment of existing difficulties? Do they not, on the contrary, aggravate the original disorder, and render it still more difficult for the wisest statesmen to arrive at a compromise calculated to meet the necessities of the case and at the same time the conflicting sentiments of the people?

Yes, the Union is in imminent danger.—Both of the parties in this sectional struggle are in earnest, and both have been so assiduously incensed against each other, both so mutually misrepresented by sinister parties, that neither is in a condition promising to the views of conservatism, and neither sees the frightful consequences of continued ultraism in the only light favorable to ultimate harmony. Separation appears to be the aim of both extremes, and as General Wool has truthfully remarked in his letter to General Cass: "If a separation should take place, you may rest assured that blood would flow in torrents, followed by pestilence, famine, and desolation; and Senator Seward's irrepressible conflict will be brought to a conclusion much sooner than he could possibly have anticipated."

But what is to be done in this emergency? We still repeat our confidence in an appeal to the people. The people constitute the fountain of all rightful government. The popular will is peculiarly the basis of all governmental change in this country. A vast majority of the people of the United States are hostile to disunion in any shape and under any circumstances. They are prepared, we firmly believe[,] to do justice between the north and the south, to discard all feelings of sectional discontent, all geographical prejudices, and unite upon any equitable common-sense compromise.—The politicians are perfectly aware of this popular proclivity, but they are opposed to it as incompatible with their own interests. They desire agitation, for they thrive by it. They labor, therefore, to keep the popular sentiment in abeyance—to crush the popular conservatism out of sight—to irritate, by artful misrepresentation, the popular petulance into an implacable disaffection. Shall they succeed? Shall they, to compass their selfish purposes, plunge this hitherto peaceful nation into a civil war which cannot but end in its political destruction? Or shall the people of the United States take in hand a matter so deeply affecting their public and private interests, and utter their will in tones which shall be authoritatively heard from the St. Lawrence to the Rio Grande?

Out of the five millions of voters in the United States, we doubt not that at least four and a half are, in heart and soul, warm Unionists. Those among the republicans of the north are intimidated by a sense of policy, at present, from expressing openly the nature of their loyality, and those among the extremists of the south are dismayed into silence by the enthusiasm of their opponents. But, let the bold, the fearless, the untrammeled friends of the Union call forth conventions of the people, in both sections of the confederacy, to consider the most feasible means of peacefully terminating this heart-rending difficulty, and then behold the result. For we emphatically deny (as we have denied before) that the late presidential election decided the will of the people in regard to slavery in the territories; and even if it were so considered, surely the anti-Lincoln majority of nearly a million of votes in the thirty-three states would demonstrate that three-fifths of all the votes in the Union were opposed to the views announced in the Chicago platform on this subject. The politicians dare not leave this question distinctly to the ballot-box. They should be compelled to do it. They should be forced by the pressure of public opinion to submit to the popular vote Crittenden's or some other set of acceptable resolutions, and the demagogues would stand aghast at the rebuke their time-serving course had elicited. We place our trust, to use the language of the Cincinnati platform, "in the intelligence, the patriotism, and the discriminating justice of the American people." We insist upon it that the people alone erected, and the people alone have a right to demolish, this great fabric of liberty. We protest against any conclusive settlement by any less authority; and if left to them, we have no fear for the preservation of the republic.

Even though we have the fearful ordeal before us, no efforts whatever are made by the Republicans in Congress to pour oil upon the troubled waters. Why not make the effort at least to do something to stop the progress of a catastrophe which must end in horrid scenes of suffering and blood? Instead of engaging to bring about measures of peace, they urge coercion and force, and are in favor of driving back at the mouth of the cannon and the point of the bayonet, the seceders, even though all the Slave States should eventually go out. But, God be thanked, these "leaders" of a sectional party are not the People. When the irrepressible conflict ceases to be waged on paper or in legislative halls, or in Wide Awake assemblies, and comes in the true spirit of a blood thirsty fanaticism to court the arbitrament of the sword, then the voice of that People will be heard, as with the voice of God, for PEACE! Brothers are not going to imbue their hands in brother's blood to oblige Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Sumner nor Mr. Wade. If these gentlemen have a stomach for civil war, let them throw away their lives, if they choose, but they must not expect us to follow their foolish example. Mr. Seward is rolling in wealth, and most other of the Republican politicians, who will not "budge an inch to save the Union," probably have enough of the good things of this world to enable them and their families to live on through this "conflict" without visions of almshouses or starvation to haunt them. The laboring millions, who constitute the real bone and sinew of our Northern population, however, are otherwise situated, and being otherwise situated they are not going to starve that they may FIGHT,—and they are not going to fight, in order to make great men of small demagogues.