Failure of the Southern Conference

Augusta Daily Chronicle and Sentinel, March 14, 1860

Virginia has emphatically refused to go into the Convention of Southern States, proposed by South Carolina, and particularly urged upon the attention of the Old Dominion by a commissioner appointed for that purpose. Thus the last hope of the conference is gone, Virginia's refusal being emphatic, two thirds against it. And so Carolina, Mississippi, and perhaps Alabama, will be left alone to carry the scheme through.

What is the reason that Virginia and the majority of her Southern sisters will not be represented in this proposed Convention, and what is likely to be the effect? There could be no reasonable objection to a Convention of the Southern States, held for the purpose of devising ways and means to restore harmony between the sections, and thus preserve the Union of the States in peace. There could be no objection to a peaceable and lawful assemblage of good citizens, taking counsel together for the perpetuity of our institutions, and our common government. But we fear the reason why this movement of South Carolina has been condemned and discountenanced by the South, is that the Southern people instinctively felt it was a scheme not of union, but of disunion; a movement, not to connect the ties which bind us together as States, but rather seeking dismemberment. The South would not go into the Conference, because she felt satisfied that it was designed to precipitate us into revolution without sufficient cause. The South is not ready to dissolve the Union yet, nor is the South by any means ready or prepared to declare for dissolution, merely on account of the election of a Republican President, and therefore she would not go into the Conference.

This refusal of the South to go into the proposed conference, as we understand it, is a rebuke, and we think a deserved rebuke, of those who are seeking the disruption of the government without cause. We do not mean to say that the design of the Convention, and of those who proposed it, was disunion, but the people believed that to be the design, and that was the sole reason of its falling through. Let our hot-bloods take warning from this lesson. Let them learn that, however loud the press and the politicians may clamor for a re-organization of the government, the people will not heed them—they will not dissolve until they see good reason for it.

Now, what effect will this refusal of Virginia and the other States have? It will be important, and we fear disastrous. Already the Charleston Mercury declares its conviction that it will result in the election of SEWARD to the Presidency. And why? Because it will serve to convince the North that the South will never consent to dissolve the Union; and remove from the minds of Northern men all fears upon the subject. Just as always happens, this failure in an impractical and foolish plan works the South harm, and harm alone. The Mercury and its class of politicians say that disunion will probably now be precipitated, because the Southern people will take no steps to avert it by concert of action, and thus the North becomes emboldened to go forward in its mad career.

Well, who is to blame if the North, from this action of the Southern States, arrives at the conclusion that the Union is stronger than slavery? The Mercury throws the blame upon Virginia and her conservative sisters, because they will not act. But not upon Virginia, nor upon the great mass of conservative Southern citizens can that blame rightly rest. No, it is justly chargeable upon those who have so much zeal with so little discretion; upon those who have taken in the beginning a false position, and one to which no reflecting man ought to think the South could ever be brought. One great source of our troubles comes from these people who go off half-cocked, and will not listen to reason.

We would not speak harshly of such people—perhaps it is an inherent defect in their natures, and they cannot help it. They, in South Carolina and elsewhere, as we know full well, are noble, chivalrous, honorable people, but they seem to lack ballast. Would that heaven might vouchsafe to us, if not less zeal, at least more wisdom, prudence and moderation, less fiery eloquence and denunciatory oratory, and more plain, old-fashioned common sense. Would that these ultra men might come to see, and know, and understand once for all, that every attempt of theirs to lead the South into a false position must fail, and that every such failure works to the injury not only of those who make the attempt, but to the injury of the whole South. "offences must needs come, but woe to them through whom the offence cometh."