Difficulties and Dangers
Augusta Daily Chronicle and Sentinel, December 22, 1860
It cannot be truthfully denied that there are many and great difficulties in the way of a final and satisfactory adjustment of the impending troubles between the North and the South. It were simply the most besotted ignorance, the most criminal indifference, which could induce any to shut their eyes to these difficulties. We repeat that the difficulties are between the people of the North and South—not between the South and the General Government, for we have no serious ground of complaint against the Government. The danger is in the spirit and temper of the two sections. And while, just now, the prospect of adjustment seems brighter than heretofore, it is well that we be careful not to deceive any one, and not to be deceived ourselves.
Times change, and men with them. Two weeks ago we estimated the vote in our January Convention as probably 169 for immediate secession, to 132 against it. A great change has occurred since then, and now we have scarcely a doubt that the immediate secessionists will be defeated at the January election. We do not believe, from present indications, that 140 immediate secessionists can possibly be elected to the Convention, unless some great and unforeseen revulsion takes place. By immediate secessionists we mean those who are pledged to carry Georgia out of the Union as soon as the Convention meets, without waiting to make any further attempt at adjustment of our troubles. Many of these designed to take Georgia out by the action of the Legislature, and to make her the leader in the secession movement; but they were defeated by the sober-minded and cautious. Should they be again defeated by the people on the second day of January, it will be indeed a great popular triumph—a triumph of reason over passion, of prudence over rashness, of calm reflection over excited prejudice.
But herein is one of the greatest dangers of the times—the danger arising from the probable misapprehension of the true state of public sentiment in Georgia. It is well known that as Georgia goes, so goes the South. Calm, self-possessed, moderate and just, her course will determine the course of most of the slaveholding States. For this cause it is all-important that nobody shall mistake the position of our Empire State, nobody here or at the North. It may prove a fatal, an irretrievably fatal error, should the conservatism of this State, as it is likely to be manifested in the January election, be misconstrued into submission, or a delay designed eventually to lead to submission. We feel it incumbent upon this journal, which is now, as it has always been, the exponent and the representative of the prudent, cautious, reflecting portion of the community—of that class which is known by its acts as the great conservative body in the State—to state fully and frankly the danger of imagining that this January election will exhibit a triumph of Union for the sake of the Union.
Nothing can well be farther from the truth. Georgia will indulge no threats, will use no menace, will attempt no bullying. But, relying upon the righteousness of her cause, the manliness of her people, the power of her resources, her position and her renown, she will simply demand that which is honorable to concede, and accept what it is honorable to accept. It is beneath her own dignity, it is impolitic, and it is unjust to her confederates, to employ gasconade—she will only ask for justice, for security and for peace—for a final cessation of slavery agitation, upon terms which it can be no disgrace to grant, and less than which will be unsatisfactory to her people, hazardous to her interests, and dishonoring to her fair name. She will make an earnest and an honest effort at adjustment, beseeching her sisters of like interest to join with her—should her reasonable demands be granted, she will maintain the Union of our fathers, should they be rejected, she will then take such steps (in co-operation with her sister slave States) as may be dictated by Honor, Wisdom and Patriotism.
A very large portion of the Northern people, from various causes, social, political, religious, economic, have become hostile to African slavery. It may well become them now, in the face of the great peril that threatens, to reconsider their opinions, to form dearer conclusions as to the thing as it actually exists, and juster conclusions as to their duties as good citizens. For, above all other things, it is patent this day to every careful observer that the North regards the Union as a matter of value to them. Regard slavery in any light you may, it is a matter of grave moment for you to consider, whether comity, good-fellowship, fraternity, and, above all, interest, (though we dislike to appeal to such a sordid motive) do not require you to bury your prejudices against that which does not immediately concern you, and to do justice to your equals in the Confederacy.
The name of slavery is perhaps really the most repugnant thing connected with the institution. The words slavery, bondage, property in man, are perhaps unpleasant to you; but does it become men, sensible men, to allow foolish prejudices against names, to outweigh the value of things? Let slavery be repugnant as it may to you who live afar off, and know nothing of it, the question now is, forced upon you by your own folly and wickedness, will you sacrifice the value of the Union to you, will you deny justice to your confederates, will you continue your maddening warfare, will you persist in continual harassment, will you still maintain a position which makes a whole section uneasy and restless from a feeling of insecurity, rather than like men conquer your insane prejudices and do your whole duty? We warn you now, calmly and kindly, that you retrace your steps—not from fear, for we scorn to appeal to that—but from a just regard to sacred obligations.
And, above all things, we conjure you, men of the North, not to mistake Georgia's position, and Georgia's determination. It has been taken deliberately, and we think wisely; it wt H be maintained firmly and persistently to the end, with all the means the God of Nature has given us. That position and determination, sure and unmistakable, is, that we must have equality, justice, fraternity, peace, in the Union, or we shall, however reluctantly, be forced by a sublime sense of the obligations we owe ourselves, our children, our civilization, our social existence, our security 'and our happiness, to conquer peace and independence.