How Far Are We Apart?
Augusta Daily Chronicle and Sentinel, October 10, 1860
We have long thought that there was vastly too much bitterness and exasperation and rancor in the party politics of America. But especially is there too much now between the different parties in the South. We are brethren, and while we differ, each should allow to the other that honesty and sincerity and patriotism which it claims for itself. There is not this day such an essential difference between the BELL and BRECKINRIDGE and DOUGLAS men of Georgia as should alienate them from one another in view of a common cause and a common danger. It is true that we do differ somewhat in principle, and vastly in policy, in this emergency. The BELL men honestly believe that the election of Mr. BELL will secure the South in every essential right and interest in this confederacy, and that it will restore that harmony and good feeling between the unhappily embittered sections, without which the Union of the States is not an object of paramount desire. Our BRECKINRIDGE friends, on the other hand, just as sincerely believe that the only road to Southern security in the Union and to permanent peace lies through the election of their ticket, which alone, as they think, fairly meets the issue tendered by the hostile Republicans. And still the DOUGLAS men, with equal honesty, believe that the election of Mr. DOUGLAS will preserve the Union, and secure quiet and destroy slavery agitation, because such election will be a most emphatic endorsement of Congressional non-intervention with the whole question, leaving it to be settled by each Territory for itself, subject to the Constitution.
And, in fact, we are all really agreed and pledged, by the distinct platforms of DOUGLAS and BRECKINRIDGE, and by the acquiescence of the BELL men in the laws, (for we are a party of law-abiding people,) that the people of the Territories shall settle slavery for themselves, subject to the Constitution. The trouble is, that the BELL and BRECKINRIDGE men hold that subject to the Constitution, the Territories have no lawful authority to exclude slavery nor slaveholders, while Mr. DOUGLAS and his Northern supporters hold that the Territories have such lawful authority, and his supporters at the South, whether holding such doctrine or not, are content to let them exercise it. To the doctrine of judge DOUGLAS we, of the BELL party and the BRECKINRIDGE party, can never, and will never, assent, as a fundamental principle of party organization, or a fundamental rule of practice in the administration of the Government. We hold now, as always that the doctrine is totally indefensible, and, as Mr. TOOMBS says, that it is supported by neither reason nor authority. Upon this then, the BRECKINRIDGE and BELL men stand firmly together, and upon this we are both forever separated from the DOUGLAS party, as far as the poles asunder, unless the DOUGLAS party abandon the position.
As the BELL and BRECKINRIDGE men are a unit mainly as to this principle, and totally at variance with the DOUGLAS men, what other differences are there amongst us? There is almost nothing else divides us but the best policy to be pursued in order to defeat LINCOLN. For while we all have our own principles, which we hold tenaciously and will not surrender, yet most of us would be patriotic enough to forego a contest upon them at present, for a greater object—the defeat of LINCOLN. In the great battle States of the North the DOUGLAS and BRECKINRIDGE men do show a willingness to lay aside a contest about their distinctive doctrines, and to unite upon the BELL platform, the Union, the Constitution and the laws, however indistinct or inexpressive that may be—and for what purpose? Simply to prevent a great calamity, the election of a sectional President. The danger is more menacing to us of the South than to our brethren of the North, for they are not directly interested in any property which the Republicans war against—they have no immediate and vital interests in jeopardy—they are in no danger. Why then should not we unite, who have all at stake, when our cordial union is the thing necessary to nerve the arms of our Northern friends for victory? Why may we not put away, for this time at least, our dissensions, in face of the danger which threatens us more than the North?We are all willing enough to unite, but each party desires the other two to unite with it, on its platform and for its candidates. Mr. DOUGLAS of course is entirely out of the question in the South—his doctrines are odious and himself unpopular in the highest degree. And still it is surely not the interest or the policy of the other two parties to declare and wage war upon him and his, in face of the fact that without his aid North, we are powerless to defeat a greater enemy. While the BELL men and the BRECKINRIDGE men are opposed to DOUGLAS and his doctrines, they are the natural allies of each other, for they agree mainly on principle, and that principle is strong in the hearts of the Southern people, and is right. Agreeing thus, we are dividing our forces on men, and on matters of policy, and on unmanly prejudices. We have ever accorded to Mr. BRECKINRIDGE the highest praise as a citizen and as a public man. We never doubted that he was honest, faithful and trueand we think no calm, unprejudiced supporter of his can fail to accord as much to Mr. BELL. We have fought each other, because each clearly saw that the other was the only opponent. It is time this unnatural contest was ended. This deplorable bitterness should cease. We are all but human—with the frailties common to humanity, and no doubt each one of us has much to regret in the past of this short conflict. It is time we came together, upon the strongest man.The vote of the South for either BELL or BRECKINRIDGE, is a distinct declaration on our part against the Wilmot Proviso and Squatter or Popular Sovereignty, or whatever it may be called, and in favor of equal protection to the slaveholder and every other property holder in the Territories. Mr. BELL’s record is clear on all these points—it is sound, constitutional, Southern and national. Mr. BRECKINRIDGE’S IS not so much so, but his platform and the interpretation thereof by his Southern friends is quite as much as could be reasonably expected for the time. The policy of making a distinct party on that platform, at this juncture, we have always deplored, and have thought it was the duty of the seceders to have united with us from the beginning, either by accepting our ticket, or by dividing the ticket. This policy it is, mainly, which has made the BRECKINRIDGE party an embarrassment in the contest, and the best that can be done, under the circumstances, at this late day, is for the people, the honest BRECKINRIDGE voters, seeing their leaders will not harmonize, and that they are powerless in their present position, to come out like men and vote for JOHN BELL. We doubt not there are thousands of them who will do so, because they can do nothing effectual, as they are, and they are only dividing friends who should be united.