What Shall Massachusetts Do for Herself?

Boston Daily Courier, December 18, 1860

The election-returns have disclosed the strange fact, that, although over nine hundred thousand in the minority, in the popular vote, yet that the Republicans have the control of the government; and some of them propose coercing the people and the States into a submission to the odious principles of their platform, which has been, by nearly a million majority, protested against by the popular vote. That accident and misfortune have given them possession of the administration for the next four years, we regret but cannot avert; but that any faction of their party has therefore any right to force their obnoxious sectionalism and wanton contempt of the Constitution on this Union, by means of the machinery of administration thus casually in the hands of Mr. Lincoln, we protest against, in the name of popular rights and the will of the majority, to whom an indignant and suffering people will yet hold these daring politicians amenable. The anticipation of this wicked coup d’etat of the friends of Mr. Lincoln has spread dismay among the disorganized majority. The same absence of effective organization which gave the Republicans the opportunity to wield power, now stimulates the people in every section of the country to seek for local means to escape the dreaded calamity impending. In every quarter sections are

consulting their own interests, as a guide for the line of duty they should follow in the impending crisis. The South proposes to cut away from the Union, and to leave Mr. Lincoln only Republican States to govern. She talks of cheap goods, a foreign trade of $400,000,000 from her own ports, and no expense for a navy to protect a commerce without ships. California and the Pacific States, with their gold and their isolated position, commence to talk of a Pacific republic and the conquest of Sonora. The West talk of free trade, and of cutting their way with the sword through their sister States to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

Massachusetts, with the Western sword gleaming behind her, and Southern secession like a cloud before her, has not expressed her views on these questions, nor on the new doctrine of coercing the majority of American freemen to swallow “black” Republicanism as a creed. By the election she did express her unwillingness to yield to the Southern States rights in the Territories of the Union, which they said were equal rights. Present events show that it is a matter of regret that she has taken this much of interest in territories, which, as fast as they grow up into States, turn and bully the Atlantic and Gulf States with unconstitutional threats of cutting their way, with the sword, through them.

The spirit evinced by these Western orators in their bombastic threats is not calculated to afford present or future peace to the Union, or security to the seaboard States. It will be sad to those who have reared the territories into States, to find they had reared a viper brood. Massachusetts was not dry-nursed into a State; homestead bills and land grants to railroads were not the pap that warmed her into maturity. She won her sovereignty with the sword, and those who propose to cut their way to the Atlantic may find it easier to cut around than through her. Enough of this. While other States are looking for their interests, let us look for ours, and follow it when found. A large share of the manufactures, commerce and navigation of this Union is performed by Massachusetts, and consequently her population is three or four times greater than her capacity to support them by agriculture. This makes her lands very valuable, and her vast property depends on the success with which her people can carry on the manufactures and commerce they are now engaged in. In this crisis we ask, how are we to support our people in. the future? Will making war on the South do it? A war on the seceding States would be either successful or a failure. If it were a success, the insurrection, disturbance and impoverishment that would follow in the South would utterly break them up as a profitable market, and it would be years before they could take from us anything like the present quantity of goods, or give employment to our navigation and mechanics as they do now. A successful coercion on the issues now open would throw our commerce and manufactures back a third of a century, and the hands left idle here would leave us forever, long before we could restore that market to its present value to us. A failure in a coercive war would irritate the South into discriminating duties against us, or would compel her to levy such a tariff for the expense of the war as necessarily greatly to diminish consumption of manufacturers [sic], and, at the same time, leave us exposed to a competition under unfavorable circumstances, with powerful rivals from England, Belgium and France. In such an event, we should be equally a permanent loser as if we succeeded. There can be no coercion against a united South.

There is another circumstance. The coastwise trade to the Pacific States is a great source of wealth to Massachusetts, from the vessels employed, the market we find there, and, above all, the gold which pays for what we sell. If the Union is to be broken, what interest binds California to remain, or Oregon, or Washington[?] Dissolve the compact, and all the federal lands and mines belong to those sovereign States. A low tariff, the whole Pacific trade, and a treasury fed with the products of the quicksilver and gold-bearing quartz mines, instead of taxation, would draw to the Pacific a new exodus of millions, flying from the civil war and the poverty entailed by it on the Atlantic side. With independence, the stream of gold would be diverted from our commerce, the coastwise trade be one of free competition, as England has long desired,—and Massachusetts be doubly and trebly crippled as a consequence.

In short, we can conceive of no possible result of a fraternal or civil war that would not drive from Massachusetts one third of her population, and entail the evils of poverty on another third. This banquet, to which we are invited, is not to our taste. War with the South may suit the West, who have neither commerce nor manufactures to suffer, and who may ship their pork as well East as South. It may also be very agreeable to the West to cut off Southern farmers from competing with them in the monopoly, by land grants to railroads, and homestead grants, of all the public territories; but we cannot see what profit all this is to bring Massachusetts. The whole programme of war seems intended to make Massachusetts foot most of the bills and suffer most of the losses. There is a good policy among merchants regarding their customers. And that is, not to bankrupt them. The more prosperous you can keep your customers, the better is your own trade—the more certain your prosperity. It is a good policy for Massachusetts now. Free trade among the several States of this Union has been the cause why Pennsylvania, New York, and New England especially, have found the Union such a real blessing. We have manufactured, we have traded on land and sea; the others have been our customers. Take away this, and the Union fails in its most important material objects. Peace may preserve this substantially to us—war cannot.

If this article has not classed the sentimental mission of Messrs. Phillips, Wilson, Sumner, and Andrew, to the free negroes in the South, to break constitutions and build mulatto Utahs in the Territories, as being a part of the interests of Massachusetts, we ask pardon of Barabbas and the Pharisees. The interests of Massachusetts are to keep her own people employed and well fed, and to protect her own sovereignty in her borders. She went into this Union for this, and in the Union or out of it, that is her first duty to humanity.