Shall the Union Stand upon a Basis of Moral Obligation or of Physical Force?

Boston Daily Post, September 26, 1860

If there is any one act of misrepresentation meaner and more disingenuous than another, which Mr. Douglas has been guilty of, during his electioneering tour, it is his repeated insinuations that the supporters of Mr. Breckinridge are not sound and reliable upon the question of then maintenance of the Union and the enforcement of the laws. Although he, and every person of common sense, knows well enough there is no anti-law or anti-Union party in the field, in this canvass, excepting the Black Republican organization, he gratuitously raises this issue with the friends of the latter candidate, in order to prevent a reunion of the Democracy, and to give a color of plausibility to his coalition with the Know-Nothings, who have set up the unfounded claim of being the champions of the Union and Constitution par excellence.

As to the enforcement of the laws, Mr. Douglas is well aware that no portion of the Democratic party has ever placed itself in antagonism to existing statutes, except some of his own partisans, who, in the rump Convention which nominated him for the Presidency, argued in favor of reopening the slave trade. And, in assuming this overt position, he himself set them a notable example, in proposing to override the decisions of the Supreme Court, by abolishing slavery in the Territories, through the medium of squatter sovereignty, in spite of Congress and the Judiciary. Indeed, he has been unable to adduce a single plausible fact in support of his assumption that the Breckinridge wing of the Democracy is less devoted to the Union, or regard the constitutional laws of the country as less sacred and binding, than the most orthodox of his own supporters. The people, who are familiar with the antecedents of all the Presidential candidates and the characters of the public men who espouse their cause, respectively, are not to be duped by any such blarney.

But when Mr. Douglas declares himself in favor of maintaining the Federal authority and enforcing the laws "in any contingency," what political emergencies in the future does he contemplate? His freesoil friends say, and he himself gives countenance to the idea, that he takes this decided stand in view of any possible complication of our Federal relations which may arise under a Black Republican, higher-law administration of the government. Does he mean to say that if such an administration should frame laws manifestly infringing the constitutional rights of the South, (as its controlling minds, such as Sumner, Hale, Wilson, Seward, Lovejoy, Andrew, &c., would insist upon its doing,) that any non-compliance with or resistance to such laws must be forcibly put down? Does he mean that if such an administration shall repeal the Fugitive Slave law, and ignore the compromises of the Constitution touching the institution of negro servitude, the South, notwithstanding this violation of the compact, shall be compelled to submit, and remain in the Union as a subjugated province, shorn of the attributes of sovereignty? It is in this sense that the Black Republican press and leaders understand him; and hence they applaud his stump performances, and count him as an effective ally, if not a pronounced champion of their cause. When he affirms, boldly and unequivocally, that the laws and the executive supremacy must be enforced "IN ANY CONTINGENCY," they are satisfied that he is of them and with them; that he will give his cordial support to the administration of Abraham Lincoln, and prove a worthy successor to him in the Presidential chair. But in thus catering for Republican success and sympathy, he has evidently forfeited the confidence and support of the National Democracy, whom he vainly essays to sell out and betray into the hands of the Philistines.

It is not to be doubted that Mr. Douglas is in favor of perpetuating the Union; and so are the sectional opponents of the Democracy, upon certain inadmissible terms and conditions. They would compel our Southern fellow-citizens to remain in the Union, contribute to the support of Northern commerce and manufactures, and help to defray the expenses of the General Government, without enjoying that protection and equality which are the fundamental objects and conditions of the Union. The partisans of Lincoln and Hamlin propose to circumscribe the domestic institutions of the South, and, on the hypocritical plea of barbarism, to extirpate, by "unfriendly legislation," her system of labor and the profits of her industry. They would virtually disfranchise her in the national councils, and make the measure of her political rights the concessions of the will of an arbitrary majority. Then, if she refuses to remain in the Union on these humiliating conditions, they are ready to let loose upon her the demon of civil war and imbrue their hands in fraternal blood; and Mr. Douglas proclaims that he is ready to join them in this unhallowed crusade. But will the unprejudiced, liberty-loving masses of the North, in such an emergency, suffer themselves to be led to the slaughter of their own kindred, to carry desolation to the homes, and plunge their hostile steel into the bosoms of the descendants of their common ancestors, of glorious memory, because they dared to assert their equal rights and privileges in the confederacy established by those ancestors? Never!

As Union men, there is this important difference between Mr. Douglas and Mr. Breckinridge: While the former proposes to maintain the Union (in any contingency—no matter what wrong or provocation to the seceding States may be involved in it) by invoking the strong arm of the military power, by employing the brute force wielded by the federal army and navy, the latter desires to maintain it only by the moral power of justice, equity, honor, fidelity to the Constitution and fraternal affection. This is the broad distinction which marks the dividing line between rival candidates for the suffrages of the Democracy, and which every true and reflecting Union man can fully appreciate. Let every such candid and patriotic elector at the North judge for himself what would be the value of this Union, when, no longer enshrined in the hearts of the people, its laws and obligations shall be enforced, upon a reluctant and outraged community, at the mouth of the cannon and the point of the bayonet. If those who love and cherish the sacred bond, which has made of the American people one great and happy family, would avoid the alternative of degrading the Union to a hollow mockery and a curse; if they desire to preserve it in the true spirit of fraternity, and upon a basis of peace and mutual good will, they will not fail to give their votes, their influence, their whole mental and moral energies, in favor of the true Union candidates, BRECKINRIDGE and LANE.