What Shall New Jersey Do?
Camden Democrat, April 13, 1861
The Hon. Rodman M. Price has published a long letter in reply to one from L. W. Burnet of Newark, proposing the following questions:
"Will there eventually be two permanent Confederacies—a Northern and a Southern—the Southern comprising all the fifteen slave States? Secondly: In this event, what position for New Jersey will best accord with her interest, her honor, and the patriotic instincts of her people?"
The first question is certainly a poser, and at this time baffles the speculations of all statesmen, and the second is one which would demand the serious consideration of the people of the State, the answer to which would depend very much upon circumstances.
In reply to the first question Mr. Price says, "I believe the Southern Confederacy permanent, and in my opinion, every slave State will in a very short time be found united in one confederacy."
This, to our view, is rather a hasty conclusion, which if accepted, would close the door to all present and future negotiation, and render nugatory the efforts of the friends of the Union throughout the South to maintain their position, and enable the PEOPLE to be heard upon the secession movement of the usurpers of the Southern Confederacy. If the permanency of that Confederation is a foregone conclusion, the irrevocable nucleus of a new Union, why do the Border States hesitate to accept their fate? Why do they still strive to persuade the Administration to abstain from force, and prevent the inauguration of a Civil War? Why do they still persist in petitioning the North to recognize Southern rights, to adopt amendments to the Constitution, to assemble in convention to reconstruct the Union? No! The Southern Confederacy is not a permanency, and can only be made so by Administrative aggression. Let Mr. Lincoln withdraw the troops from forts Sumpter and Pickens to prevent collision, and in less than six months, the Union men of the Gulf States will be in the ascendant, the PEOPLE who have not heretofore been consulted in the formation of the Confederacy, will demand a settlement from the traitors who have usurped their power, assumed control of their destiny, and speaking for themselves, will accept any fair adjustment of our differences that may again render us a united, prosperous, and happy people.
This the secession leaders know full well, and we therefore are not surprised to learn by a despatch from GEO. N. SANDERS, that "in Cabinet Council, Jefferson Davis strongly urged an aggressive policy towards the United States, and that the Cabinet decided if the ultimatum of their Commissioners to Washington were not accepted, war should be declared." In further corroboration of our views, the Mobile Mercury, a Secession organ, says:
"The country is sinking into a fatal apathy, and the spirit, and even the patriotism of the people is oozing out under this do-nothing policy. If something is not done pretty soon decisive, either evacuation or expulsion, the whole country will become so disgusted with the sham of Southern independence, that they will turn the whole movement topsy turvy so bad that it never on earth can be righted again."
Even that fire-eating organ of Charleston, the Mercury says:
"Fighting immediately and obviously destroys the Union party in the Border slaveholding States, and brings them into the Southern Confederacy; it destroys, likewise, all hopes of reestablishing the broken Union which the Black Republicans are all loth to give up, and expect yet to mend; and it will raise a powerful anti-coercion party in every Northern State, who will clog and cripple the Government."
Thus we see the secessionists do not consider themselves safe without a rupture, which may give them a pretext for establishing a military despotism, and we only fear that "Old Abe," in his insane efforts to carry out the Chicago Platform, inaugurate the "irrepressible conflict," and prove himself a "second Jackson," will help them to their wish, and render a reconstruction of the Union impossible.
In reply to the second question, Mr. Price says "emphatically she should go with the South, from every wise, prudential and patriotic motive," and then proceeds to give his reasons at length.
We are not prepared to agree, or disagree with this hasty conclusion, and while we confess our sympathies are for the South, we dislike even the contemplation of such a possibility as the permanent dissolution of the old Union, and prefer to direct our efforts rather to its reconstruction, than to the future formation of new confederacies. Yet one thing we can say with safety, that even in the event of the withdrawal of the whole Southern States, it would require a material alteration of the Southern Constitution to induce us to accept it as the Supreme law of the land. For instance, how would our politicians like the provision that no one, except a native born citizen, or a resident of the Gulf States, at the time the Constitution was adopted, can hold any office in the Confederacy?
But, aside from any objections to their Constitution (as we have neither space nor inclination to particularize its defects), New Jersey might find it very disadvantageous to join a Southern Confederacy, unless New York and Pennsylvania should accompany her. To be sure, we owe them no particular liking, as, while New York has twice robbed us of portions of our territory, they have both constantly infringed upon our jurisdiction, and systematically abused us. Yet, however much glory we may boast for the heroic sufferings of our fathers in the Revolution, (when the Colonies seceded from the government of England,) we have no desire to again become the fighting ground of the country, especially during a civil war—as would inevitably be the case, from the peculiarity of our geographical position, if we were the most northern extremity of a Southern Confederacy. In the event of a conflict, (which could not be avoided,) it would be the interest of our powerful neighbors to secure our extensive sea-board, and the command of the entrances to the Delaware and Hudson rivers, which, also, it would be of the utmost importance to the South to retain. Who can doubt our gallant little State would be crushed and trampled to death between the two contending forces?
Not Governor, let us drop the consideration of such a future for New Jersey. If you will adopt Com. STOCKTON'S line, of "the Hudson and the Lakes, rather than the Potomac and the Ohio," as the northern boundary of the Confederacy, then, indeed, our objection would be removed; but we cannot consent to be the extreme border State of either a Northern or Southern Confederacy. Let us rather pursue the course we have heretofore marked out, and in a conservative spirit, plead for peace, and a reconstruction of the Union, based upon the most ample recognition of the rights of all the States, and whatever fair guaranties may be required to secure them.
New Jersey has no prejudices against Southern institutions to overcome—she has no sympathy with fanaticism of any kind—but her people dearly love the old Union which our fathers established, and will submit to almost any sacrifice to maintain it.