Daily Chicago Times, June 12, 1861
It is the duty of every man, without regard to past political associations, to give the Federal government a loyal support during the present rebellion. It is not the administration as an administration, but as the embodiment of our institutions, which is entitled to obedience. Who is or is not President, or Secretary of a Department, during the next four years, is of very little consequence in the present attitude of events. In the grand scheme of American nationality Mr. Lincoln's regime will be a mere point—of great insignificance as to time—but of inconceivable importance as testing the patriotism of the people and the strength of the national institutions. It is not his policy the nation are required to pursue—in no sense the interests of his party that they are to subserve. He neither leads, nor originates, the popular sentiment. He certainly is not the author of the popular duty. Loyalty to the government is loyalty to ourselves; and in the constitution, which is over all, and belongs to all, do we find the measure of our duty.
The war must be fought to a victorious conclusion. If Mr. Lincoln does not do it, the people will. If this generation leaves it undone, the next will fly to arms and accomplish it. The idea of American nationality—of the Union under the constitution—is established forever. Abandon it to-day, and to-morrow a Garibaldi will lead the popular heart to restore it. Such ideas never die. They become the motive power of nations, and until the memory of the Revolution, and of the glory and prosperity of the country under the constitution, shall have been forgotten by mankind, the American heart will cling to the large destiny which bounds the Union by the oceans, and which has made the Mississippi ours from its source to the Gulf.
It matters not, then, who is the leader in this war. So long as he holds his office by virtue of the constitution, he must be sustained in all vigorous efforts to maintain the Union,—opposed only when he falters or hesitates in pursuing that end.
We do not propose to argue that the safety of the country, in such a crisis, is not a party matter. No man can argue it, unless he assumes that there is to be a separation at Mason and Dixon's line, which is impossible, so long as the Mississippi, stretching with its branches into the heart of the continent, shall bear the snows of the North to the sunshine of the South,—so long as the great works of public intercourse shall exist between the sections,—and so long as the products of the States vary in character, and the people are of one lineage and tongue. The complete circle of commercial, manufacturing, industrial interests, which the Union has presented, is not the result of chance. It is based upon fundamental laws of man's happiness and prosperity. It is part of the economy of creation, and will sustain itself in spite of governments or rebellions. It may be retarded by the strifes of the times, but never destroyed. When we comprehend this,—when we behold in rivers, lakes and mountains, in varying forms of industry and production, the physical unity which nature has imprinted upon the continent, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico,—we cannot resist the conviction that this is designed for one nation, and that the question before the people is not one of territorial unity, but of a form of government. Under some polity we must forever be a unit. The great material interests of the country demand it—demonstrate it. It is a destiny which we cannot avoid, if we would.
In this strife, then, we are to decide the governmental institutions which shall be over us and our children in the future. The strong ambitions which have chafed at the mild restraints of the Constitution, and plunged, without cause, into conspiracy and revolution, cannot proffer any hope of liberty to wise men. Indeed, the Montgomery constitution bears upon its face the evidence that it is a temporary expedient, and is only the forerunner of a stronger and, undoubtedly, a despotic form of government. The secession movement, at every step, has been marked by the secrecy and exclusiveness of men who have ultimate designs which they dare not disclose,—but, above all, of men who are determined to govern as they please. The closed doors of legislatures and conventions,—the overawing of expression of opinion against the movement,—the intimidation of voters, when the form of popular suffrage was resorted to,—the refusal to submit the Montgomery constitution to the people, and the weaknesses of the constitution itself, are all evidence that a despotism is impending over the revolted States, which may spread over the country, if we do not sustain the constitution and enforce the laws. If the conspirators triumph, the constitution is at an end. For what confidence can we have in an instrument which fails at the first trial? Besides, the recognition of the Southern Confederacy, whether to-day, or after a long war, is the recognition of the legality of secession, and, of course, forever a precedent for the disintegration of the Union. At the same time, secession is the corner-stone of the Montgomery instrument. The machinery of national disorganization is a national institution. To-day a State may be independent,—to-morrow attached to the North or South, and the next day subject to England. The folly of such a system is apparent, but it is its weakness—the dangerous facility with which it can create pretexts for usurpation, revolution, despotism—which is prominent. Certain powers are necessary for the vigorous government of a nation, and the absence of them is positive proof that there is no true national idea—no reliable national strength. The necessities of a people will arise above such shallow contrivances to preserve a State's sovereignty. The popular voice will sustain an energetic ruler in usurping powers withheld, because some exigency demanded it, and thenceforth usurpation will have no limit, save the pleasure of the ruler.
The choice before the country now is, to remain united under the present free constitution, or to be compelled to unite in the future under some form of institutions the nature of which we may apprehend, but do not know. Need we argue to American citizens that freemen are only secure when they cling to liberty—not when they seek it? All history teaches the lesson. Italy, once freest of the nations, is struggling through a long agony to recover what was her own. She has had her Bombas, as we have our Davis. The centuries are all crowded with what mankind have lost. All ages are pregnant with the arts by which despots seduce the people to slavery. The mighty past thunders into the ears of Americans, "Cling to the Union; let your devotion to it be the only impulse, passion and resolve of your hearts; the preservation of it, under the constitution, the object of your lives."