The Democratic Party
Charleston Mercury, April 16, 1860
The Democratic party, as a party, based upon principles, is dead. It exists now, only as a powerful faction. It has not one single principle common to its members North and South. It has degenerated into a mere political organization, variously united, to obtain power and place. On every living issue deemed vital to the South, the Northern members, as a body, are against the South, and agree, substantially, with the Consolidationists and Black Republicans. And this result, the South herself has produced by her weakness and timidity. She has now no other alternative, but to raise up the lifeless body of the Democratic party, by restoring to it living principles, and putting it into power, or to dissolve the Union. To stand in her present position in the Union, is to be in the broad road to inevitable ruin, helpless and hopeless.
The South owes it to herself, to rebuild the Democratic party. It was founded by her, and its great achievements are monuments to her fame and honor. Resting upon the sovereignty of the States, and the plain grants of the Constitution, it is capable not only of governing beneficially these United States, but the whole continent of North America. Nay, more. Its great principles of confederation and justice, may fold the whole world in its embraces. No antagonism, no sectionalism can exist, under its wise and restricted operations of government, because it exercises no power over interests which are not common and general to all the States and sections over which it rules. Abuses cannot be permanent, because they cannot be partial. Where all portions of a vast country are equally to be affected by the operations of a Government, the interests of all afford a sure guarantee against abuses or misrule. Such is the Democratic party, as founded in '98 and '99 by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. But it is now overthrown by Centralism and Consolidation. Like the British Parliament, Congress is omnipotent. That great sectional interest, the institution of slavery—the last and the most deadly to reach—is swept into the vortex of Federal jurisdiction; and the two great portions of the Union, stand apart in stern sectional defiance and hostility. The timid and faithless expedient of concession to encroachments, has whipped out, one by one, all the limitations of the Constitution; and forced upon the South the alternative of rebuilding the Democratic party, and making it triumphant, or of submitting to or resisting a Government without limitations on its powers, in the hands of a hostile section. Experience teaches, that the South must reverse her course. She must be done with the progressive and accumulative folly of compromises and concessions. Firmness is the dictate of necessity. She must cease fraternization with any who deny her essential rights, and the great principles of the Democratic party. She must insist upon a plain acknowledgment of the rights of the States, restoring to practical efficiency the confederative features of the Constitution, and upon a rigid adherence to the plain letter of the Constitution, and an abstinence from the exercise of all doubtful powers, in administering the Government. False pretenders to Democracy at the North—false on the taxing and appropriating powers of the Government, and false on the great matter of the rights of the States in our common Territories—conquered by federalism, and swallowed up by sectionalism, can form no portion of the Democratic party. To act with them, the South must consent to abandon principles, and thus become coadjutors of a mere faction for federal offices and honors; or she must stand herself, and compel all who accept of her affiliation to stand, on the great principles of the Democratic party. In this way alone, can the Democratic party be restored again to life. By this way alone, can the South be true to herself, and to the great mission of preserving the Constitution, which Providence seems to have committed to her charge.
If Northern Democrats will not join her in resuscitating the Democratic party—if they are fataly bent on assisting to set up a consolidated sectional despotism in the Union, over the South, then what business have they in the counsels of the South? Let them go and elect Mr. SEWARD or Mr. DOUGLAS to the Presidency. Let them in the North seek only Northern political associates. The South cannot possibly be benefited in any way by their association. If she is to be set upon by the sectional power of the North, let her at least preserve her self-respect by not contributing, by her affiliation and co-operation, to her own persecution or downfall. A victory with such allies will be the most disastrous of overthrows, because it will establish the enemy in her midst and paralyze her for any efforts at extrication and redemption. But, if the Democrats of the North are not entirely forgetful of their interests, principles, and policy, nor ignorant of the vast benefits our Union confers upon their section of the Union; if they still have existing within them any respect for justice and the Constitution, and that love of liberty which made them one with the South in founding the Democratic party, they will join the South in the effort to restore it to life. So far as the Territorial question is concerned, Messrs. FITCH, BIGLER, BRIGHT and GWIN, of the Senate, and Mr. WOOD, of New York, and others of the Democratic party of the North, have earnestly pressed upon the South to pursue this policy.
But a mere agreement upon principles, whilst it will breathe into it the breath of life, will not restore the Democratic party to a mastery of the Union. Something more must be done. The South must prepare for action. She must plainly make it known to her confederates in the Union that at the next Presidential election the question is not only a Democratic or Black Republican President, but union or disunion. "In hoc signo vinces." It would have conquered us peace long ago, but for our ignorance or pusillanimity. It will do it now, if believed at the North. At all events, it is the only and last alternative by which the Democratic party, with living principles, can be restored to power. It is the sole hope of saving the Union, consistent with the salvation of the South.