The State of the Country

Cincinnati Daily Commercial, March 23, 1861

Senator DOUGLAS said in his recent speech:

In my opinion, we must choose, and that promptly, between one of three lines of policy:
1. THE RESTORATION AND PRESERVATION OF THE UNION by such amendments to the Constitution as will insure the domestic tranquil[l]ity, safety, and equality of all the States, and thus restore peace, unity, and fraternity, to the whole country.
2. A PEACEFUL DISSOLUTION of the Union by recognizing the independence of such States as refuse to remain in the Union without such constitutional amendments, and the establishment of a liberal system of commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties of commerce and amity.
3. WAR, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those States which have seceded or may secede from the Union.

Mr. DOUGLAS does not state the case as we would do, but there is an approximation to the truth, in what he says. Considering the first line of policy which he indicates, and which is the one that he maintains should be adopted, there are no constitutional amendments that would at once restore the whole country to peace, unity and fraternity. If the old Constitution would not unite us in peace and fraternity, a new one would not—for that which would satisfy the Cotton States, could not, in self-respect and honor, be conceded or submitted to by the North. Mr. DOUGLAS's first proposition is simply for the friends of the Government to submit to its enemies.—Whenever, if ever, the Cotton States return to the Union, it must be over the politically dead bodies of the Secessionists. This result is a question of time. We must wait patiently for the operation of the laws that are self-enforcing. War, for the subjugation of the seceders would be unwise and deplorable. There is no province in the world conquered and held by military force, that is not a weakness to its master. Many of the English colonies have drained England of her wealth. The English people are now eaten up with taxation to hold distant possessions in military subjection, and carry on her world-wide system of filibustering which has for centuries been a national passion. The wars, which are visited upon her in her monstrous national debt, were occasioned by the pride of her aristocracy and the intrigues of her politicians, and were not, with an exception or two, in the interest of her people. India, upon which she has lavished her strength, and which is the most magnificent trophy of wars of conquest held by any nation, is an encumbrance to her to-day. Algiers is a costly and unprofitable appendage of France. Venetia is the weak spot of Austria, and the life's blood of the Empire is drained to hold that territory which is absolutely worthless to the Austrians, and fetters her armies in the quadrilateral. The history of the world certainly proves that it is not profitable to govern a people without their consent.

The logical lesson of this fact in this country, is that if there are two nations here who have been living in an unnatural Union, they should, for the benefit of one or both, be separated. We do not entertain the opinion that a forced alliance between antagonistic nationalities has existed in the Union which our fathers made. We believe, whatever the difference in domestic institutions, in temperament, in soil and climate, and in ideas of local government, to be found within the limits of the land, that each interest was secure within the Union, and that all sections were more prosperous and happy within than they can be without the Union.

But, the control[l]ing class of one section have chosen to repudiate the great blessings of the common Government, and have precipitated and almost consummated a revolution. Seven States, by the action of Conventions called and elected in a season of excitement, have adopted Ordinances of Secession, discarding and destroying the Federal authority within their limits, and have established a de facto Government.—This Government has no legal existence in the contemplation of the Constitution of the United States. But there it is—a fact extending from the Atlantic to the Rio Grande. Its officers are collecting customs on a thousand miles of sea coast, and on the Mississippi river. Its agents are on the way to Europe, demanding that the Confederate States be recognized among the nations of the earth. A permanent Constitution has just been published, and is submitted to the several Confederates for ratification, which it will certainly receive, in form that it will recognize as authoritative, from at least five States, and probably from the whole seven.—However great the usurpation of the Conventions, and however oppressive the exertion of their power, we cannot expect that the people, though suffering and dissatisfied, will revolt immediately.

What is to be done? The people are recognizing the Government of the Confederates. Our business men trading with the South are constrained to observe its commercial regulations. And eventually the Federal Government must become conscious of its existence, in form as well as in fact. The statu[s] quo cannot be preserved. Certainly it will be impossible for the country to remain in the prevailing condition of suspense much longer. There must be an end of the paralysis and stupor, arising from the dark uncertainties of the future.

The confession that the Union is disrupted is bitterly humiliating, but it might as well be made. The fact of disruption and of the incompetency of the Government could not be more forcibly illustrated than in the surrender of Fort Sumter. If the acknowledgment of the military necessity of giving up that post, is not recognition of the existence of the government of the Confederates, we should like to know what would be called a recognition. Whether it would be worth while, after that for us to be very sensitive, as to whether Mr. SEWARD has a few conversations with JOHN FORSYTH at the State Department, the common sense of the people may determine.

The news of the surrender of Fort Sumter—the significance of which will seem even greater in Foreign than in home circles—will reach Europe about the time the Southern Commissioners make their appearance at London and Paris; and England and France, and the other great commercial nations, will perhaps, not immediately, but speedily, recognize the Government of the Confederate States. We must consider that European nations—"the despotisms of the old world"—are not particularly sentimental sticklers for the rights of men, and that they care a great deal more about commerce than liberty. Those engaged in the coolie trade are hardly in a position to refuse communications with a slaveholding confederacy. The nations of Europe are not much addicted to making sacrifices for the sake of liberal ideas, and they are not likely to feel any remarkable degree of solicitude for the preservation of the unity of the American Republic, the citizens of which have been so boastful of its superiority to them. When our own Government acquiesces in the revolution so far as to suspend its authority and surrender its property, what can European governments do but acknowledge the power that has asserted and sustained itself?

The experiment of an independent Government, will be tried by the seceded States. There is no doubt remaining on that subject. The Government which has been inaugurated in the Cotton States, is that of the minority of the people over which it is proclaimed—it is, and while it exists will be, a Government where the few rule the many. It is not, however, the province of the General Government, to maintain the rights of the majorities that armed with Constitutional power to govern, abjectly permit themselves to be governed. The people of the South have been basely deceived and terribly wronged by the secessionists. We must trust them in good time to avenge themselves and the nation. Vengeance belongs to them, and they will in due season perform the work that will vindicate their manhood, and make the account even. When the Union men have their feet upon the necks of the disunionists, and returning to the principles of the fathers of the Republic, engage in the good work of rebuilding the Union and making it stronger and more beneficent than ever, the world will learn that the vital idea of the capacity of the people for self-government, did not perish when the fanatics of a few States committed political suicide; and that idea will shine forth over the nations, in hopeful beauty, like the morning star telling of the coming glory of the sun.

The Southern people have to make their election in the issues that have been thrust upon the country in the name of their section. They have slavery, and have now the unqualified responsibility of their own destiny. It is conceded they can go out of the Union if they want to do so. The border slave States are in a position that they cannot long maintain, indeed that cannot long be tolerable. They must speedily joint the secessionists—pass under the yoke set up at Montgomery, and commit themselves to the keeping of the tyran[n]ous plantocracy of the Cotton States—or they must unequivocally and unconditionally remain in and stand by the Union. They can have all its guarantees in good faith and liberal measure, but in return they must abide by its obligations, maintain its dignity, defend its honor, obey and enforce its laws, and identify themselves with it unreservedly. Otherwise they are not for the Union. Their contingent disunion policy is an endorsement of anarchy, and is insulting, as well as injurious, to the real friends of Union.

It is obvious that the Government is at present, owing to the treachery of the late Administration, and the unworthy caution of the late Congress, almost powerless. Mr. LINCOLN found, in entering upon the duties of his office, a hard complication of strange and humiliating necessities, both civil and military. He found the Union disrupted,—in fact, if not according to constitutional law. Congress had refused to grant additional powers to meet the emergency. The treasury was empty, the navy inefficient, the army insignificant. He had to take the Government and the country as he found them, disorganized and disintegrated. It is much easier to name the things that he can not do, than the things that he can do. But it would be the weakness of cowardice, or a want of understanding, for him or for the country, to flinch from the consideration of all the facts. The "current events and experience" by which he promised to be guided, must, we are convinced, soon lead him to lend the whole influence of his Administration to the accomplishment of the peaceful separation of the disaffected from the adhering States of the Union; and in doing this, it may be necessary not only to mortify exceedingly the national pride, which as a people we have cultivated to an extraordinary degree, but to sacrifice some of the formalities by which the action of the Government is hedged about. The dream of an ocean-bound republic, which has been so grateful to Young America, we yet hope to see realized; but in the meantime there is room for several flourishing nations on this continent; and the sun will shine as brightly and the rivers run as clear—the cotton fields will be as white and the wheat fields as golden—when we acknowledge the Southern Confederacy as before. We would not undervalue the Union. It has ministered to our national pride, as well as to the prosperity of the whole country. But when it is gone, we will still have our fruitful and inviting soil and clime—our seats and channels of commerce—and the unequaled capacity of the people for productive labor.