The Territorial Rights of the South "Barren Abstractions"--No Territory

Charleston Mercury, February 28, 1860

In noticing yesterday the Montgomery Advertiser, we mentioned grounds on which the Partisans and Unionists of the South strive to belittle the right of the Southern people to colonize common territory, and to have adequate protection with their property. Admitting them to be, as alleged, abstractions, we adduced the unanswerable argument of Mr. ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS himself to show that the people of the South should "be prepared to assert them themselves, as their fathers did, at any hazard, though there be nothing at stake but their honor." We deny, however, that they are abstractions. The assertion is sustained by two false premises. The first, that there exists no territory into which the Southern people can go with slave property; the second, that were there ever so much territory adapted to slave labor, the South has no population to spare for colonizing. We shall notice to-day the first of these, and endeavor to point out that both in the past and for the future the assertion is the merest concoction of self-stultified politicians, in pursuit of plausible pretexts for surrendering what it is inconvenient for Party men and Unionists to maintain.

The right to have property protected in the territory is not a mere abstraction without application or practical value. In the past there are instances where the people of the Southern States might have colonized and brought new slave States into the Union had the principle been recognized, and the Government, the trustee of the Southern States, exercised its appropriate powers to make good for the slaveholder the guarantees of the Constitution. It has been the great question for ten years. When the gold mines of California were discovered, slaveholders at the South saw that, with their command of labor, it would be easy at a moderate outlay to make fortunes digging gold. The inducements to go there were great, and there was no lack of inclination on their part. But, to make the emigration profitable, it was necessary that the property of Southern settlers should be safe, otherwise it was plainly a hazardous enterprise, neither wise nor feasible. Few were reckless enough to stake property, the accumulation of years, in a struggle with active prejudices amongst a mixed population, where for them the law was a dead letter through the hostile indifference of the General Government, whose duty it was, by the fundamental law of its existence, to afford adequate protection—executive, legislative and judicial—to the property of every man, of whatever sort, without discrimination. Had the people of the Southern States been satisfied they would have received fair play and equal protection at the hands of the Government, they would have gone to California with their slaves. They would have made good with their strong arms and stout hearts, with revolver and bowie-knife, any minor deficiency attributable to the condition of the country. California would probably now have been a Slave State in the Union. But such was not the case. The Government was notoriously unwilling to do its duty. It sought popularity with the stronger and more determined North by sacrificing the rights of the South. It even went so far as at once to preclude the emigration of slave-holders by inaugurating Squatter Sovereignty for the control of the entire territory in the first handful of Northern settlers. An officer of the United States army was used to effect the purpose. It got them to adopt an Anti-Slavery Constitution, prohibiting the holding of slaves in California. It effectually prevented the experiment of Southern men introducing their slaves into the diggings. And California was brought into the Union as a Freesoil State. Without affording the South an opportunity to colonise.

What has been the policy pursued in Kansas? Has that territory had a fair chance of becoming a Slave State? Has the principle of equal protection to slave property been carried out by the Government there in any of its departments? On the contrary, has not every appliance been used to thwart the South and expel or prohibit her sons from colonizing there? Have not the chief executive officers of the Territorial Government, appointed by the President of the United States, been from the beginning successively Northern Freesoilers, whose whole influence has been exerted, either openly or secretly, to exclude the South? While impunity in license was given to abolition ruffians and Northern disturbers of the public peace of the JOHN BROWN school, the army of the United States was used to check the vindication of Southern Rights unprotected by the Government. Have not the officers of justice, time and again, quashed indictments against the perturbers of the security of Southern men and Southern property—murderers, incendiaries and negro thieves, &c.? Finally did not Congress, after the Southern settlers had made an astonishing struggle against all the influences and odds opposed—after they had achieved a victory, adopting a Pro-Slavery Constitution by a duly authorized Convention of the inhabitants of the territory—did not the Congress of the General Government reject the application—under whatever flimsy pretexts—yet in reality, because it was contrary to the universal Northern creed of "No More Slave States," that Kansas should come in under the Lecompton Constitution? In our opinion, had the principle of equal protection to Southern men and Southern property been rigorously observed by the General Government, both California and Kansas would undoubtedly have come into the Union as Slave States. The South lost those States for the lack of proper assertion of this great principle.

We know that it is easy for politicians, now that the opportunity is lost, to assert, without positive proof to rebut the statement, that Kansas could not have been made a Slave State. But there are many facts that point in a different direction, rendering the question one that has at least two sides in the argument. Kansas lies back of the Slave State of Missouri. It was accessible only through Missouri. The counties of Missouri where slavery was strongest and slaves were most numerous, were contiguous to Kansas, The hemp culture there was exceedingly profitable and the negroes were healthy and prolific. The lands of Kansas were similar in soil and climate to these counties, and, of course, much cheaper. Without a political crusade, the natural emigration would have been Southern. Had slave property been protected, the non-slave-holders of the North, with their fanaticism, would not have sought contact with slaveholders. They would not have gone there. They went there by encouragement, and, to a large extent, for the purpose of expelling Southern institutions, which were taking root, and might have flourished, but for the hostilely indifferent course of the Government, and its failure to afford the protection to which all people are entitled from their GOVERNMENT.

So much for the past. But it is maintained that, however this may have been once, it is not so now. The South has now no interests whatever to subserve in insisting on any right in any territories on this continent. All questions, therefore, concerning such territories are merely speculative. In the Union, Nebraska and Washington Territories are too cold. Utah and New Mexico are too barren and arid. The Indian Territories belong to the Indians. Out of the Union, Central America, although nearer than California, is too distant. Mexico is forbidden fruit to us; and Cuba, if she comes to us at all, it will be as a slave community, and the question relative to our rights in new territories will have no bearing upon her. Thus, all the territories on the continent are quite beyond the sphere of Southern occupation or civilization; and all talk about the rights of the South as regards any such territories, is sheer nonsense.

Now, if these views be correct, the first remark which will strike any reflecting mind is, that the Southern people must be a most singular and remarkable people. Every other people in the world would have some interest in territories belonging to them, or in those around them. With every other people, expansion would be a blessing. They alone are to be unrestricted and uninjured by being prohibited from their own territories, and being kept out of all neighboring territories which may be placed under their common Government. The Southern people must be most unfortunately and extraordinarily situated in regard to the quality of the territories by which they are surrounded, and their civilization must be strange indeed that it has no use for extension. Prima facie evidence is emphatically against the dictum that there is no territory into which the Southern people can go.

But let us examine, by other than vague assertion, these views, and see whether the territorial rights of the South are without practical value for the future. The Indian Territory lies contiguous to Arkansas on the west. It is a large, rich and beautiful country, and will, unquestionably, ere long be opened to colonization from the States. Applications have already been made, as we have been assured, for leave to settle there by the Southerners expelled from Kansas. No one doubts but that the Indians will be removed to the more western locations of other tribes, and that the Anglo-Saxon will occupy the land in their stead. When that territory is opened, the principle of protection to slave property by the General Government will have a local habitation and a practical application which the most unwilling devotee of Democratic official success and the Union will be able neither to gainsay nor ignore. With the South failing sternly to assert and maintain her territorial rights in the Union, and the continuance of the Union, there is not a shadow of doubt as to the destiny of the Indian Territory—one or more Freesoil Anti-Slavery States. If the principle and right of protection now surrendered by the indifference of Party men or Union-savers at the South, in order to patch up a hollow truce with the Freesoil Democracy at the North and by their co-operation secure a party triumph, destitute of principle, and damaging to all hopes of Southern expansion, can the South hereafter, with any show of consistency or moral force, resurrect her dead rights? No; the principle will be lost, and we shall fail to secure that important territory. It will be snatched from us by Freesoil recruits, backed in their inroads by the General Government in the hands of Freesoilers.

Senator SEWARD, in the United States Senate, asserted that the tone of the debate on the part of Northern Senators went to "show that if the State of Texas should be divided into four States hereafter, and they should come here (to Congress) all as Free States, those States will come into the Union as Free States." "And if, unhappily, any such States should come as Slave States, the question will then arise whether it is wise and expedient, and just and right, to establish Slave States." These remarks show how SEWARD'S thoughts are running and his hopes. Are we to fold our arms and see the predictions of this arch enemy fulfilled, without an effort to establish those rights on which our expansion, our power, our interests and civilization depend?

Is it, too, beyond the bounds of possibility that the mines of Arizona might be valuable to the South, and sufficiently attractive to allure the slaveholder if he has the prospect of security? We have heard of companies already organized in Texas for that purpose. At any rate, it is cowardly and suicidal to determine that because there is just now no territory we care to occupy, that, therefore, our rights, which may be vital and invaluable, should be yielded to a hostile sectional sentiment at the North.

New Mexico, it is asserted, is too barren and arid for Southern occupation or settlement. Admit this to be true, although it has localities as rich as any in the Mississippi valley, is the surface of the soil, by agriculture, the only source of wealth to man? The richest portions of the world by its mines, are generally the poorest for the purposes of agriculture. Now, New Mexico, like Arizona, teems with mineral resources. Two centuries ago its silver mines were worked profitably, and were never, we believe, discontinued until Anarchy sprung up in New Mexico, in the name of Liberty. The whole country is unexplored. It is like California, when first acquired. Who anticipated the vast resources of California by her mines of gold and quicksilver, when it was first acquired? They lay hid from the ignorant and lazy Spaniard, or more lazy Indian, and would have been hidden forever, but for the enterprise and sagacity of the Anglo-American. But the other day, Southern men said of Kansas what is said of New Mexico, that it was worth nothing to the South; but already veins of gold are discovered in this territory which may make it as rich as California in its mineral resources. There is no vocation in the world in which slavery can be more useful and profitable than in mining. The mines of Mexico were the original cause of African slavery. We submit, is it wise, in our present condition of ignorance of the resources of New Mexico, to jump to the conclusion that the South can have no interest in its territories, and therefore shall waive or abandon her right of colonizing them? Is it not the plain dictate of prudence and duty to insist on our constitutional rights with respect to them, as affirmed by the highest tribunals of judicature in the land, and to drop all party association with those who deny them?

We frequently talk of the future glories of our republican destiny on the continent, and of the spread of our civilization and free institutions over Mexico and the Tropics. Already have we absorbed two of her States, Texas and California. Is it expected that our onward march is to stop here? Is it not more probable and more philosophic to suppose that, as in the past, so in the future, the Anglo-Saxon race will, in the course of years, occupy and absorb the whole of that splendid but ill-peopled country, and to remove by gradual process, before them, the worthless mongrel races that now inhabit and curse the land? And in the accomplishment of this destiny is there a Southern man so bold as to say, the people of the South with their slave property are to consent to total exclusion, or to pitch their tents, by sufferance, only along those narrow strips of inhospitable country where the white man cannot live, and where contact with squatterdom cannot reach us? Is all the rest to be given up to the aspiring, enterprising and indomitable people of the Northern States? Is this the conclusion of those who make light of the principle of equal protection to slave property as an "abstraction"? Is this the grand finale for the South in the future, to which they would have our acquiescence for the sake of promoting somebody to the Presidency, and many others to many other places? Is it for this that the value of the Union and our duty to our sister States is invoked? We tell them the South repudiates such a prospect. Our people will never sit still and see themselves excluded from all expansion, to please the North. These questions have to be decided. In the decision of the institutions to be established on this continent, the territorial rights of the people of the Southern States are of vital import. They will never consent to yield by ignoring them before the denial of the stronger section. They will repudiate those who give such counsels.

The North has hitherto been opposed to the territorial extension of the United States. This has been a policy enforced on the Union by the South. It was a wise policy so long as the territories acquired were free to the colonization of all sections of the Union equally. But if we are now to give the North to understand that the South considers herself as having no interest in any future territory acquired from Mexico, and that therefore we will ignore and surrender our right to colonize any portion of them;—in other words, that we practically assent to the Wilmot Proviso being enforced in them, in the shape of Squatter Sovereignty—how long will Mexico remain a fruit unswallowed by the North? If there is a terrestrial paradise on earth, it is Mexico. It will not, and in our judgment it ought not, to remain useless to the rest of the world, with its vast capacities in the hands of a weak and semi-barbarous people, retrograding to savagism every day. It will as certainly be colonized and appropriated by the Anglo-Saxon American as the seasons roll on. Bordering on the Southern States, the natural course of extension would cover it by the enterprising population of the South. Whether this shall be the result, however, or not, is it wisdom—is it good practical statesmanship, for the South to proclaim in advance, that Mexico is "forbidden fruit" to her; and by her party affiliations, lift to power those who declare that she shall have none of it? If we could make Mexico also "forbidden fruit" to the North, there might be some plausibility in this abnegation policy. But the North has the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives in Congress. They can pluck and eat the "forbidden fruit" just when they please; for Mexico stands helpless and ready for absorption by the United States. Is it meant that Mexico shall be "forbidden fruit" to the South but not to the North—and that, by our consent, the North shall stretch forth around the Southern States in boundless expansion, whilst the South shall remain stationary, with a daily increasing weakness and helplessness, from her comparative inferiority? It is exactly that which the Abolitionists first broached in Congress when California was admitted into the Union. Are those agitating a speculative question merely, who maintain that the Southern people owe it to themselves, and owe it to the integrity of the Constitution, to vindicate in the elections for the Executive of the United States, as well as for the Legislature, the rights of the South in our territories, present and future, as solemnly announced by the Supreme Court of the United States? Whose policy is the most speculative—that of those who endeavor to show that the people of the South have no interest in any of the territories on this continent, within the Union or without it, and therefore ought dumbly to acquiesce in the denial of their right to colonize them equally with the people of the North—or that of those who maintain that the South has interests in all such territories, and ought to maintain her rights with respect to them by all the legitimate means the Constitution of the United States prescribes? To us the former policy appears to rest upon nothing but the most speculative and baseless assumptions. If true statesmanship consists in the practical, it is just no statesmanship at all. It inculcates that nothing exists, and therefore we must do nothing. The latter policy, on the contrary, rests on facts and rights which notoriously exist, and inculcates decided action to enforce them. It is, therefore, eminently practical. Nor are they singular in the opinion that the territorial question is a great practical question. The whole North is agitated by it. The Northern people are by no means prone to pursue mere abstractions. They know that on this question rests in a large degree their future mastering ascendancy in the Union. They will rejoice to learn that what they consider so vital to their sectional domination over the South, is considered in the South as a mere abstract matter, not worthy the consideration of Southern statesmanship. They will hail such demonstrations as the most flaunting signals of surrender. Having all the power, they need but one thing to complete their self-complacency; and that is, to know that their power will not at all be embarrassed by those silly abstractions called principles.