What Is to Be Done?
Chicago Daily Times and Herald, November 21, 1860
The question is asked at every street corner, "What is to be done now?" A very grave question, indeed. A question involving very much more than the questioner himself dreams of—involving in fact the manufacturing, commercial and laboring interests of the North to an extent incalculable; involving the future destiny of the American continent, politically, socially and in every respect, to a degree inconceivable to the clearest minds. The fall of stocks, the breaking of banks, the ruin of our currency and general bankruptcy are the very smallest of evils that will flow from an unwise answer to this question.
The men who have caused all these incalculable evils can never solve the question. The morbid and insane mental action, that has driven them forward on the path of ruin, has become chronic. The judicial blindness which has followed them at every step through their mad and passionate hallucination will still cling to them. They will never believe in a disastrous result to their maniac schemes, until it has happened; and then they will refuse to believe further, and, with the true inspiration of mania, will account for the results by every cause on earth save their own "insane idea." Individuals are known to become deranged by the prolonged concentration of thought upon a single idea, and all the more readily when that idea is a visionary or impracticable one; perpetual motion has deranged thousands. To the reader of history nothing can be clearer than that large bodies of people are alike subject to monomania, resulting always from a determined, prolonged and passionate concentration of the public mind upon an abstraction. History is full of such instances. The true representatives of the insane idea—those whose fanatical zeal have deluded others—can never heal the disease they have created, because they cannot heal themselves. To confess an error is the most difficult and sublime act of our rational life. To surrender a hallucination is well nigh impossible.
The Abolitionists of the North are utterly given over to a hallucination. The abstract idea of the equality of races, and the Utopian dream of a human level, have so far engrossed them as to exclude all calculation based upon practical life and common sense. They have lost the power of appropriating rationally the facts by which they are surrounded. They force facts to suit their procrustian bed, and will believe all things that strengthen the stimulant which has become a part of their life; they will believe nothing that weakens it. But worse still, they have lost the power of correct reason, and take causes for effects and effects for causes. The sunlight of heaven is not more clear than that the Anti-Slavery agitation is the true and only cause of all our woes and trouble. It has been the thermometer that has marked the stages on our road to ruin. As it has mounted in the scale, discord, passion, and misery have followed. As it has subsided peace and happiness have returned, and danger has fled from our doors. It has been the bulletin of the stock market of our hopes. And yet its leaders will not see, or seeing will not believe. They hug their bantling with the fervor of a mother for her deformed child. They swear that the results of their own agitation and mania are the prime cause of the evil. They thrust their thumbs to the knuckles into the eyes of their victim; and when the poor victim screams under their delightful operation of gouging, they exclaim, "confound the EYES, what a muss they are kicking up."
Let the people look for no solution of the present difficulties, or of the future destiny of the Republic, from these will-o-the-wisps who have lured us into the "slough of despond." They are both unwilling and incapable to advise you. For God's sake, for your own sakes and for your country's sake, throw off these miserable nightmares that have so long bestridden you, and once more return to the path of practical common sense, and think for yourselves.
But the question recurs, "What is to be done?" The remedy is so simple that thousands will revolt at it. Nevertheless it must be taken, or the "galloping consumption" will fasten its fangs upon us with renewed force. Our fathers were not Abolitionists. Our fathers executed the fugitive slave law in good faith. Our fathers neither disturbed nor sought to disturb others in the enjoyment of their rights under the law. Our fathers did not abuse or slander or villify the people of the country any where. When differences arose, our fathers got together, like all sensible men would do, and, making allowances for each other's feelings and wishes, compromised and settled their differences in a practical manner, and went on their way rejoicing. Our fathers certainly did do these plain, simple, neighborly things. Our fathers somehow got along bravely, and lived and died in a country "half slave and half free," in spite of the "irrepressible conflict;" and we trust in God and believe that a goodly number of these brave old men and women of the past got safely HOME after they did die. "GO THOU AND DO LIKEWISE."
Slavery will never be abolished by any thing we can do. We may fasten the chains of the poor slave tighter, and render it impossible for him to enjoy his past fat, jolly life any longer. We may delude him into struggles with his master, which may destroy his peace or take away his life. We may harrass his master very much. But we will never free the slave. That is in the hands of ONE higher than you or we—higher than Abolitionists or Fire-eaters,—hands that will deal with it in the great march of humanity as seemeth best to HIM. Time and the moral and physical laws of the world will do their work well—rest assured of that. Not fast enough for you, oh, dreamer, but in "His own good time," HE will do it, without your help in fact, and without the slightest regard to whether you like the time or not. Consent to believe this, oh, ye sapient "helpers" of the Omnipotent; return to the practical common sense of your fathers; worship God as your fathers worshipped; "love your neighbors" as they loved them, and the watchmen on the watch towers will again cry, "All is well."
But what of secession? Will there be secession? Yes—a hundred to one, yes. Oh, you vile Disunionists, how dare you say such ugly things! Simply, our friends, because they are true. Because it is a fact that the iron pen of time is steadily and diligently writing on the record of the great present. Have you so long listened to the soothing lies of the demagogues, that it startles or offends you to hear the truth? Do you wish us, as a public journalist, to tell you a deliberate falsehood—that we know to be a falsehood—to lull you into a single hour of delicious but fatal repose? If the Union is to be dissolved, do you not wish to be warned in advance and be prepared for the emergency? Does our saying that the fact is so, cause it to be so? We do not make the facts, nor does our opinion of them cause or control them. Our duty is to tell you the fact and give you our opinions honestly. If you do not like the facts, it is not our fault. Like it or not like, the cotton States will secede.
But can this be prevented now? We doubt it. The steps necessary to prevent it will not be taken. The public mind will not act promptly enough to affect this result.
But what then,—is this Government to finally go to pieces? No,—a hundred times, no. When the fiery fury and sense of wrong which has hurried the Gulf States into secession has subsided, their sense of independence and honor will be relieved, and a more dispassioned judgment will have regained its throne. A cold water bath, followed by the depletion of general bankruptcy, will have cured the North of the "negro-mania." Both sections will begin to see that their present good and future hopes are inextricably linked together. Both will learn that they have played the game of "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Both will learn that they have made asses of themselves in the face of the civilized world. Both will again remember that the only way in which they have won their past glory and present greatness was by getting together as friends, and in the true spirit of patriots and brothers settling their difficulties.
This course will be again pursued. A NATIONAL CONVENTION will be called. The politicians who have fostered and egged on this unholy family war will be driven into that oblivion which they deserve. The PEOPLE of both sections will again be heard. This negro question will be again settled, and settled in a manner never again to disturb railroad stocks in this world. The nation will again return to loyalty and fraternity, and move forward once more to greatness and glory. This is what can be done—what alone can be done and what must be done. The PEOPLE of both sections will have it done. So mote it be.