The Border States
Daily Chicago Times, May 6, 1861
Much speculation has been indulged in as to the probable course of the Border States in the present struggle. The Republican papers, which but recently held out the idea that those States could not be kicked out of the Union, are now as thoroughly incredulous of their loyalty. They declare that their "neutrality dodge" is but a ruse to enable them to prepare for the conflict, and that in heart they are with the Secessionists. With this view, they belabor and denounce them most savagely. Their first error in estimating the disposition of the Border States was not more fatal than their present policy of abuse and villification. The true feeling of the Border States was not difficult to determine from the beginning, nor is it now to those who comprehend the character of their people, their sympathies and associations. The Gulf States were at an early day substantially a unit on the Secession question. They contained a homogenous people, with nearly an identity of sympathies and interests, and were farther off from the dangers of civil war. The Border States, on the other hand, were nearer the focus of events, and more subject to the devastations and horrors of a border war; they were far more deeply interested in the Union commercially, and far more linked with the North by ties of blood, association and business. But while this was true, it was not possible for any reflecting man to overlook the fact that the Border States were, upon the issues that lie at the foundation of the present conflict, as well as by blood and affinity, chiefly in sympathy with the people of the Gulf States. Under these conflicting feelings and interests, the Border States have taken a vascilating and uncertain course. Their people took sides as the preponderance of interest or feeling led them. They have not, at any time approached, nor do they now, unanimity of sentiment on any course of action. Thus divided at home and liable to internal strife, they have endeavored to take a neutral position. Like all men who do not know what to do, they procrastinate and temporize, until they are forced to a decision.
Whatever may be the apology for this procrastination, there is one thing which no sane man can question; and that is, that these States cannot possibly maintain a neutral position in a war between the two sections. The attempt to do so would end in an utter failure in two months. Individuals might possibly retain a position of silence and inaction in either section, but with States it will prove entirely different. The government could not permit Kentucky, for instance, to stand as a territorial shield to the States South of her, and yet suffer her citizens to individually aid the South. Such a position might be more effective in aiding the seceders than an open revolt. It is not possible for Kentucky to control or prevent her citizens from taking such a course; nor is it possible to prevent the citizens of the North from making retaliatory aggressions upon Kentucky. However sincere the governments of the Border States might be in their attempts to maintain a neutral position, they will find it a road too hard to travel. They would be alike the object [of] suspicion and insult from both sides, and in the end would be compelled to take sides.
Without, therefore, for a moment encouraging those States with the hope that they can escape the general scourge of civil war, we must at the same time express our utter dissent from the policy of browbeating them and snubbing them, while they are still in the Union and preparing to make their election. Such a course can add nothing to our chances of securing their fidelity to the government, but, on the contrary must tend to still further alienate them from us. Their support would be equally useful and gratifying to the North at this juncture. That support is not most likely to be secured by a system of threatening and snubbing. Such arguments do not produce the desired effect, North or South. The true policy would probably be to demand of those States within a reasonable time to take position in favor of the Government, and in the meantime to refrain from all hostile acts and provoking declarations calculated to alienate them from us. We have a powerful Union element in Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. We have also a strong Union feeling in Northwestern Virginia; and while we can express but little hope of the result of the vote in the latter State, we are not without strong hope that a prudent but firm policy may yet save the three former ones to the Union. Of course we do not expect or advise the Government to delay its own preparations, or to fail to thwart those of the enemy. The Government of Mr. Lincoln is not likely to take any rash step calculated to add any unnecessary feeling against his power in those States. The true danger to the Union element in those States and to our country, lies in the bitter taunts, gibes and denunciations of the Republican press, and the unguarded declarations of intentions to "exterminate and devastate the South," and to extinguish slavery by force. Such wicked sentiments, if entertained, should at least be suppressed as a matter of policy.