The State of the Union
Augusta Daily Constitutionalist, November 3, 1860
We believe that it is customary for Congress to convert itself into a committee of the whole on the state of the Union, and in that interesting condition, for its members to make speeches on every possible subject. With this illustrious precedent before us, let the following remarks ramble as they will, we cannot be charged with transcending our theme.
We have spent some little time and ink during the last few months, in the effort to prove that the country was in danger; and of all the remedies offered, ours was the best. We think so, and have said so, when it was very evident that all the promptings of ambition, power, influence and public favor, lured us the other way. We are well aware that we have been considered as mere alarmists, who sought to frighten the people into terms, and many of the American papers which first denounced us for such a course, have done us late, but honorable justice. Yet, while those who now think so absurdly, give us little credit in supposing that we deem fear a governing passion with our people, we can offer another consideration which should satisfy them that should we err now, we at least mean to be accurate. In the first place, it is now too late to influence this election by terror and rumor of war, for our country readers of the Weekly will see nothing more from our pen until after the election. Second: death-bed confessions are generally received as true, and yet with the late results in the North, resting with smothering weight upon our hopes, we would that we could reiterate with ten-fold emphasis, that there is danger in every breeze.
It is little matter of interest to calculate a result which the telegraph wires will report to us in a week, but still we will give some facts upon the present state of the Union, and some speculations on the future of our portion of it.
In the South, as every one knows, we are pretty well divided. Louisiana and Alabama are claimed for DOUGLAS by many of his friends; Georgia is safe against LINCOLN, and for the strongest of the three conservatives, we think, in her Legislature. South Carolina is for BRECKINRIDGE, with perhaps Florida and Texas; and in the other southern States there is a triangular fight, with BELL and BRECKINRIDGE rather looked upon as the champions. Missouri we deem certain for DOUGLAS, now that the false report as to the defection of her Governor has been exposed. In the North, as we have said, the real battle rages. It is easy to be for the guaranteed rights of the South, when in the South, but when passion, gold, place and power combine with the stings of southern ingratitude to crush the faithful few in the North, we can judge of the sort of stuff of which such friends are made. In none of the northern States do we rely upon the BRECKINRIDGE vote. The strength of that party there is the Federal office holders, and they have felt perfectly free to vote as they please, (except for DOUGLAS,) since the organ of BUCHANAN in Washington city said, "between DOUGLAS and LINCOLN, we confess to a serene indifference"—confirmed as they were by the direct aid to LINCOLN in the Illinois Senatorial campaign.
Illinois is in danger from the same cause that carried Indiana against us, but the dark cloud which has lowered above New York, has at least showed a silver lining. We see it stated that LINCOLN, alarmed at the danger of immediate revolution at the South, has been so indiscreet as to say in advance of the election, and permit it to be published by TOM CORWIN and others, that he would, if elected, enforce the fugitive slave law and consent to the admission of new slave States into the Union. If this be true, the effect will be most damaging to his prospects with the Abolitionists; and should GERRET SMITH be able to draw off some fifty or sixty thousand votes in New York, the fusion ticket will carry that State, even were DICKINSON & Co., as active against it, as they are now cold and passive.
LINCOLN has also been denounced by a great Republican meeting in Philadelphia and GERRET SMITH endorsed.
It is hard to tell the result, for the Republican calculations may fail, in the face of the disasters they might lead to; and while it is only by their adherence to principle that we ask the National Democrats to do their whole duty, and not from hope of reward, still we think that there watches over this fair land, a Providence which "from seeming evil still enduces good;" and as the British loyalist prays "God save the Queen," so, from every patriot heart should well up the prayer, "God save our country."
If danger is to change into calamity, the hour is at hand, and it behooves wise men to look it in the face, and see if it be real, beyond the imminent danger from our own inflammable section; or only "men in buckram."
Granting that it would be very galling to be ruled by one of that party which we all love to hate, yet it is also very galling to be, as it were, forced out of the Union by such a party. If we could make them secede, it would please us much better.
There are various things to be considered. As LINCOLN is generally considered a traitor to his country on principle, might not he become one to his party, when a national popularity should become more of an object than mere party strength? We believe that he would sacrifice his party, platform, and friends, to keep the Southern States in the Union, and the only question is, whether to permit such a deserter to reap the rewards of his treachery? Furthermore, we will have a decided majority in both branches of Congress, and the Supreme Court in our favor. Thus, with the President willing to sell out his principles for the poor boon of being permitted to keep his place—tied hand and foot, and impotent for evil, beyond the patronage which could scarcely be worse abused that it has been; with a House to whom the COVODE men have set an illustrious example of watching the President, it does look a little doubtful, whether or not the South should back out from a Government which it has the power to control, and take fifteen States, or less with the peril of war, when it can command thirty-three States in peace.
It is well known that if the seceders had not bolted at Charleston, DOUGLAS could not have been nominated, and ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS would have been; and we fear that they may commit the same blunder now, of giving up the fight and running from a party, which may be nominally victorious by a minority vote, but really defeated and powerless.
If our old friends, the Democrats, and our new friends, the Americans, will only consent to let protection and squatter sovereignty lay still until we whip out the Black Republicans, we think that it would yet be easy to save the Government, and all our rights in it, and still keep a nice bone of contention to quarrel over, after we get Abolitionism abolished.
We confess that, after this fight with all the records of inconsistency to quote from, with the prestige of the old platform, power in the North, bolting opponents, the argument, the truth, the right on our side, an obnoxious Administration to make capital of, the Supreme Court to sustain our principles, and the great statesmen that the whole South once almost worshipped, to lead our host—if we fail to get at least a third of the votes of the South, we shall feel little inclined to try to reconstruct this, or build up another National party.
We believe in the right of secession, and do not find it in the Constitution but in the violation of that instrument and the law of might. But we must confess that we do not feel any particular evils resting upon us or our section of the Union, and if we can retaliate the insult of giving us an obnoxious President, (a thing for which we may more blame our own folly than their might,) by making him sit on a dunce-block for four years, and then kicking him and his party to perdition, we will feel pretty well satisfied.
Another great consideration in this canvass, is the vote. The only excuse for disunion, and the only reason that we deem the idea tolerable, is that the Constitution has been violated by the "personal liberty acts," and negro stealing mobs of the North, and that the election of a Black Republican will show that instead of fanaticism getting cool, it is growing worse, and, therefore, the sooner the South gets clear from them the better.
But should it turn out that LINCOLN is elected by less votes than FREMONT received in 1856, that cause will not exist.
We want it distinctly understood, that so long as a majority of the voters of the North stand by us—even if divided and thus defeated now—that we shall stand by them until our State says "come away."
We wish to make this proposition to our BRECKINRIDGE opponents, and will guarantee that all DOUGLAS men stand to it.
We request you to pass a resolution in this Legislature, (should LINCOLN be elected,) requesting the Governor to call a State convention, regardless of party.
Let the issue be endorsed upon the tickets for county delegates, "IMMEDIATE RESISTANCE," or "WAIT FOR A VIOLATION OF THE GEORGIA PLATFORM, OR THE CONSTITUTION, BY THE PRESIDENT OR CONGRESS." (We will all go out on the latter issue.) Let the matter be fairly debated, and let there be about a month to do it in; let your people refrain from "firing the southern heart" if they can; trusting to the deliberate valor of a great people rather than excited rage—pardon us if by fair statements of facts, we try to keep down excitement and promote wise and deliberate councils and, let all men agree to abide the result.
If a convention of our State decides to quit the Union, with other States, or by herself, with voice and arm will DOUGLAS men support her high decree, and under the banner of Georgia, as a "sovereign and independent State," we will, with you, defy the world in arms to force her back. If the verdict is to remain a while, let us all stay and get together for a great fight at the ballot box in 1864. This is fair, honorable, and just, and we ask, who will agree to it? If, after we agree to stay, a war should spring up between a sister State and the Government, we should be governed by the circumstances of the case —not noticing a mere insurrection, but backing the doctrine of secession in the case of a State acting by its legal majorities.
One word, in conclusion. If this threatened danger to our homes, our property, our people, and our honor, be averted by the kindness of a merciful God; if, again, we become great in the councils of our country, and Abolition preachers and fools become as of yore, the petitioners of Congress for disunion, let us all learn a lesson by the solemn and eventful past, and never divide our forces on the eve of battle; or permit hate, abstractions, lust of power, or any other thing, to become dearer than the good of this great, free land, and the rights of children yet unborn, to the glories and blessings of its future.