After Secession

Boston Daily Journal, December 28, 1860

In anomalous times like the present, we may be justified in considering some of the results of the great contingency on which the crisis is made to turn. Mr. Webster declared he would not look beyond the veil which separated the country from disunion. But now there are prominent men—there are whole States, we are told—that say this veil must be torn away within a month, or a few months, at most. We may well, therefore, be casting our thoughts beyond, with the understanding that all such considerations are to be taken as speculative or practical, just according to the purpose and work of those who are proclaiming their determination to break up this Union.

Let us, then, for the consideration of a particular point, suppose that not only South Carolina, but the five leading cotton States, including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, should secede from the Union; in what condition would it leave the bonds uniting the rest of the States? Would the latter stand firm, or would the different sections become disintegrated—the border slave States flying off, then the Pacific States setting up for themselves, then the Western States seceding from the Middle and New England States, or even the two latter sections withdrawing from each other?

To begin with dividing the question, we think it may be safely assumed that unless the border slave States should go off with the Gulf States at first, they would not go at all. They would see their Southern neighbors advantaged in no particular, while burdened with an immense expense of keeping up a separate government, which would eat out their substance, and cripple them in the race of competition. The cotton of North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, would yield a great per centage of profit over the tax-laden cotton of the new confederacy; and so of other products. As to the position of slavery, inasmuch as nine-tenths of all existing difficulty has been created by the Gulf States, if they should be cut off, the institution in the remaining States would drop out of general politics into all the security which the local laws could give it. Besides, in virtue of the loyalty of the slave States in standing by the Union, every guaranty consistent with our institutions would be given to them. So well has this matter been considered by the leading secessionists, that they disclaim any desire to have the company of the border slave States in going out of the Union.

But how will the Pacific States remain affected? Senator Latham has already told us. They will cling to the North and West, he says, until the last chance of a connecting railroad shall be extinguished. Such a result is perfectly obvious from the nature of things. What can California and Oregon do as a separate government, situated, as they are, at the long end of every lever which can operate upon "the rest of mankind." Their very mail privileges are now drawing out of the United States Treasury $905,000 per annum, over and above the receipts. Is any cotton confederacy going to supply this? It will neither have the commercial interest nor the funds to do it. But California wants—and lives on the hope of getting—infinitely more than this, to wit: the building of a Pacific Railroad. The Cotton States have thrown every obstruction in the way of this enterprise—the rest of the country is in favor of it. The distinction is becoming well understood among the people of the Pacific States. If, therefore, South Carolina and her extreme proslavery confederates should retire, it would not weaken a single tie between the communities bordering on the two oceans, and having like institutions and a common interest.

But the fear has been expressed that, let the example of secession once be set, the Western States might refuse to stay in the Union with New England. But on what ground? The people of the West are mainly the children of New England, and if their interests are not identical, they are reciprocal and inter-dependent. Create a panic in Boston to-day, and it is felt in Chicago to-morrow; while a bad season in the West tells all along the Atlantic coast. But New England, it is said, is radically anti-slavery. And what, pray, is the land of Giddings and Wade, of Schurz, Lovejoy, and the Washburns? Where are there heavier antislavery majorities rolled up than around the Lakes? What Eastern State has taken such a stand against the fugitive slave law as Wisconsin? What section of the country has had Congressional delegations more uniformly firm against all the schemes of the slavery propagandists than the Northwest? Even their Democrats have sometimes been better than the free-soilers of other sections. Surely, if the East and the West were to quarrel, it would be because they were too much alike, rather than from the opposite reason.

But if the West had views or interests seriously clashing with those of the East, there is one very good reason why, as between the two, the seceding party should not be the West—and that is the latter's superior growth in power. Why, look at such a State as Iowa, going up from a population of 192,000 in 1850, to 676,000 in 1860. Look at New England's Congressional delegation of 41, which must lose three or four by the next apportionment, and then contrast it with the force of about 75 which will watch over the interests of the West. With the Union intact, the West is consciously entering upon a career of controlling power in the Republic; but let the cotton States take away their ten Senators and their twenty-seven Representatives, and it is easy enough to see whither the course of empire would take its way. Under such a condition of things, we might as well expect to see a State secede from a country, as the Great West retiring from New England, and voluntarily cutting itself off from the seaboard.

As to other possible dissolutions, as of the Middle and the Eastern States, and of the city and State of New York, (a transcendental notion never rivaled by the philosopher Emerson,) we do not care to speculate. We have gone far enough, and we can only rest our justification on the extraordinary features of the times and the impressions they make on others. For our own part, we do not believe in one permanent secession. As we were born, we expect to live and die in the United States of America. But if the worst fears should be realized, and a portion, or even all the Southern States should separate themselves from the North, let us cultivate in these remaining States sentiments of nationality and patriotism. So may we avert the evils which will surely overwhelm the South if they carry out their mad schemes of a confederacy based upon slavery. There is no good reason why property should seriously depreciate at the North, in case of a dissolution of the Union. Its occupations are varied, and its resources enormous. Civil war here is out of the question, and if the South should provoke a contest, it would not be waged upon our soil. We might have our tories now, as in the revolution, but they would give us no serious trouble. Let us then cultivate a spirit of fraternity at home, and thus avoid some of the most alarming of the evils which might result from disunion.