Disunion and Compromise

Boston Daily Atlas and Bee, February 1, 1861

We are a commercial people. We are devoted to making money. Every gold dollar that comes into our possession is submitted to the alchemy of commerce with the intent to transmute it into four silver half dollars. Everything that tends to draw our attention from this permutation of the precious metals is considered a nuisance, and everything tending to reduce the net results of the transmutation to or towards four silver half dimes is considered an atrocity. And whenever the operation of mercantile schemes is interrupted, from any cause, the mercantile mind naturally seeks to remove the clog so that the machinery may run on as before, or change the gearing so that the power may be applied to other objects and produce other results.

Just at present the commercial interests of the United States are threatened. There is a disturbance in the workings of the machine. The cause is well known to be political, and to remove that cause is of course the object of everybody. We all know that a determination to withdraw from the Union, to break up the government, and action upon that resolve, have given rise to the trouble. And we are asked to compromise the difficulty.

But, before we compromise, we want to know whether by any compromise, any concession, any submission, we can remove that determination, annul that action? Before we concede, we want to calculate the "value received."

It is certain that South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi will not be satisfied to remain in the Union on any conditions. But we are told we may save the border States. It is, then, simply a question of value there. The demand is made to secure and protect slavery in New Mexico, in Chihuahua, Sonora, Sinaloa and the northern departments of Mexico, when we shall have acquired them; to secure the right of slave transit in the free States; to pay for rescued fugitives. This is the very lowest price the country has to pay for the exercise of its privilege in electing a President.

It is generally agreed that the individuals who are concerned in the demonstrations consequent on the secession movement are guilty of treason. It is also generally agreed that of all the States which have passed ordinances of secession, but two, Georgia and South Carolina, and of these there is some doubt, have any right to be considered, if there be any vitality in the ordinances of secession, States. They were Territories of the Union before they were States. They became States of the Union. They are not States out of it. They never were, and except by conquest of their soil from the United States, and forcing an acknowledgment of their independence, they cannot desert the right of eminent domain which the federal government has over them. They have stolen the personal property of the government, they have proposed to seize their forts, to destroy the right of eminent domain, the reversionary right, in the real estate, and we are now asked to give them and all others more privileges than the most blatent platform of a pro-slavery party ten years ago, ever asserted as an attraction to the ignorant vote. The results of secession are clear. Commerce is at once stopped.

The only trade in ships that can be carried on must be the coastwise. No ship from a seceded port can get a clearance to be respected by the meanest gun-boat of the smallest power. With harbors closed, an embargo on the shipping, trade languishing, expense increasing, taxes heavy and business light, no end of debts to pay and no beginning of resource to pay with, is not the likelihood of retraction on the side of the rebels? If so, what is the cost? Does it compare with the cost of passing Crittenden's bill? What is the expenditure for a blockade, compared with the value of self-respect, settled principle, consciousness of honor, knowledge of well settled regulations? But the result. If any further guarantees are wanted, just let some State resolve itself out of the Union, and anything may be extorted, from a constitutional amendment that the President shall invariably be chosen from Florida, down to a repudiation of government bonds after the example of Mississippi. This is part of the cost of concession at this time.

With a government thus incompetently abject to the will of a State, does anybody suppose that American credit will be good? No future war could ever hereafter be carried on; no loan could be contracted at a less ruinous rate than that of Turkey or Austria. This is a part of the cost of concession.

The people decided, three months ago, that slavery should be excluded from the Territories. The proposition is now to override the people forever in this matter. We are told that anything is better than disunion; but we deny the alternative. We assert that the government has power to preserve itself; we want that power tried. And, at any rate, we are not disposed to give up anything that is our right without an equivalent—value received.

Abolish slave representation, and we will then consider about the establishment of slavery in Mexico and New Mexico. There is no dilemna now. A plain duty is before every patriot. The issue is not disunion or concession, it is the triumph of treason or the triumph of law. Do not despair of the Republic. If the strong arm raised the sword against its sacred life, let the strong arm oppose to the descending blade the defense of another blade, ready alike to shield or strike, and let the assassin be punished by the attacked. In our opinion if we desire the flag which braved the cannon of Algiers in the cause of freedom to the slave, which flaunted proudly on the battle breeze above St. George's cross for the rights of oppressed seamen, which waved over the National Palace in Mexico, proclaiming order in that turbulent city, to flutter as the emblem of a mighty nation on land and sea, we shall proclaim as our policy, the Union first, submission to traitors NEVER.