What Is It All About?

Chicago Daily Post, December 30, 1860

The American Union is about to be dissolved; the flag which is recognized the world over as the emblem of a happy nation, where liberty and peace have produced a prosperity unequalled in the history of man, is to be torn in twain, and for what? South Carolina has seceded! The whole South wants to go out! The administration will not move hand or foot to put down rebellion, or enforce the laws! All this is true, but that does not answer the question, what is all this trouble about?

There are thirty-three States numbering thirty millions of free white inhabitants. These inhabitants have come hither from all parts of the civilized globe. The population is made up of the immediate and more remote descendants of all the nations of the world. These have mingled, and though derived from so many sources, it may be said that we are a homogeneous people. These people are engaged in all the pursuits of life,—they have carried commerce into all seas where commerce was ever known; they have penetrated the sealed walls of Japanese exclusiveness; they have visited every accessible tribe residing upon every accessible spot of the earth. They have covered their land with railroads, and connected every point with telegraphs. They have brought the sciences to their utmost perfection, and made learning universal instead of exceptional. They have within their own limits every necessary. Inexhaustible mines—gold, iron, copper, lead, coal, salt. They have immense rivers, extended lakes, hills that are fertile, and plains that are spontaneous in their flowers. They have soils adapted to the growth of every article of domestic food. Every description of grain and of vegetable; every description of fruit can be successfully raised by them. Cotton and silk are naturally produced, while the great staple of wool is supplied by the almost countless flocks that roam over the land. Agriculture has been improved until it is as well understood as the most ordinary occupation. Beef and pork are supplied from the most thoroughbred stocks, and the poorest man in the land dines upon hogs whose pedigree can be traced back to the middle ages; upon beef that is descended from herds that were reared by loyal hands at the time of the conquest, and upon mutton that has come down in regular order from the flocks kept for sacrificial purposes in the days of Agamemnon!

These thirty millions of educated free white people are about to break up the Union, to destroy the Constitution and laws which have linked them together, and under whose mild and loving chains they have reaped such unbounded prosperity. And we ask, for what? Why should not these people live together any longer in harmony and good feeling? We can tell you, it is the negro. Thirty millions [of] white men, women and children are about to break up the government, and rush into civil war, upon the abstract question of the prospective status of the negro, who all admit is, and must be, a slave until death, unless his owner emancipates him. The negro in the United States is either a bondman or a freeman. The condition of the free negro is not a question of controversy between the north and the south. The slave is a slave, held and owned as property by laws which both north and south admit are beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government, and of all other states, save those in which the negro resides. Nobody at the north proposes any federal action having in view the emancipation of the negro. Nobody at the south expects any interference by the federal government with slavery in the states. The north abandons the slave to endless servitude, and the south possesses and enjoys that servitude with all the security that law can afford, and all the severe discipline that their own jealous care can suggest.

We are not discussing a political question; we do not write as partisans; we are stating history as we find it. What, we ask, is there in those facts that should set the people of this land at enmity, should induce them to abandon their present boundless prosperity and all the blessings of peace, to put on the sword and engage in a civil war, which will outrival in horror the bloodiest pages of history. The law of self preservation is the first law of nature. Why should the hopes, the property, the business, the social and commercial prosperity of the thirty millions of white people be wantonly sacrificed about the negro? We are not for giving up, nor for holding on. We are for taking care of the white people first, and then let the negro be considered. We are for putting an end to the wrangle—how we do not care much, so it is settled honorably and forever.