The Southern Confederacy--Its Recognition or Nonrecognition
Detroit Free Press, February 19, 1861
Why should not the government of the United States recognize the government formed by the States that have seceded? It is, beyond dispute, a government de facto, and it has always been a feature of our foreign policy to recognize governments de facto. No matter how they may have been formed,—whether by the people displacing a despot, or by a despot overcoming a people; no matter whether established in peace or in war,—we have always been ready to acknowledge their legality, and to institute amicable relations with them. Why should this practice be departed from in the case of the Southern Confederacy? The States composing this Confederacy, it is true, were recently a portion of our own territory; but they now occupy a position of complete independence. Three or four fortresses, garrisoned by mere handsful of men, constitute the sole foothold of our government within their limits. The people of these States, driven to desperation by the incessant warfare of abolitionism upon their most cherished rights, have withdrawn themselves from among us, and resolved henceforth to lead a separate national existence. It would be highly desirable to secure their voluntary return to their old allegiance; but, so long as anti-slaveryism rules the North, such a consummation is impossible. There are but two alternatives left: we must conquer them, or we must recognize their independence.
It is possible—though highly improbable—that we might be able to subjugate the seceded States. We might regain possession of their fortifications, occupy their towns and cities with military forces, and hold their territory by the power of arms. But this could only be accomplished—if accomplished at all—by the expenditure of a vast amount of life and treasure—by the destruction of an immense amount of property—by the annihilation to a great extent of trade and commerce. During the progress of our attempt at conquest, bloodshed, rapine, and conflagration would hold a Saturnalia; brother would strike the sword at the heart of brother, and father would speed the bullet to the brain of son. A scene of horror would be presented which we shrink from contemplating. And, supposing our attempt at conquest to be successful, what then? We should, certainly, have prevented a diminution of the extent of our public domain; but would such a result compensate us for the evils that had been done? And the people of the conquered territory, would they entertain for their conquerors that feeling which all citizens should entertain for their government, and without which feeling any government should at once cease to have existence? Would they not be exasperated to the highest degree, and, if that exasperation were not permitted to be openly manifested, would they not hug it to their souls in secret, and, upon every opportunity, give vent to it by the means of bloody insurrections? Would it be possible, for any great length of time, to keep a people so feeling in subjection? And, besides, what benefit to us would be a people so held? Would they add to our strength governmentally, or to our position morally, or to our ability pecuniarily? Would they not, most decidedly, be to us, in every way, a terrible detriment?
There is but one reply to these interrogatories, and that reply demonstrates most conclusively that an attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil,—evil unmitigated in character and appalling in extent.
Now for the other alternative. By recognizing the independence of the Southern Confederacy, we should, to a considerable degree, disarm its people of the hostility they naturally feel towards the people of the North, and, in this improved state of feeling, the details of a peaceable separation could easily be arranged. The public property could be distributed, and the public debt apportioned, in an equitable and satisfactory manner; commerce between the two sections could be rendered entirely free of restrictions; in every respect, with the single exception of government, we could be as one people; and, in case of assaults by foreign Powers upon the rights of either, defence should and would be made the common cause of both. Enterprise would develop the resources so lavishly bestowed by nature, industry would reap the rewards of its labors, and tranquillity would pervade the land. And, in the course of time,—when the fanaticism which now sways the North shall have disappeared, and the names of its apostles be held in universal execration,—the South and the North might again unite their political destinies, and, re-united, march forward, hand in hand, in that glorious career which the Almighty, it would seem, has marked out for our race.
Shall we not recognize the government of the seceded States? The administration soon to be inaugurated at Washington will have this interrogatory to answer at the very outset of its existence, and upon its answer will depend the weal or woe of thirty millions of people. A reply in the negative will be pregnant with disaster; and a reply in the affirmative we scarcely dare to anticipate. But let us hope for the best; and, if the worst shall come, let the world be made aware that the responsibility therefor should rest entirely upon the shoulders of the republican party. What the verdict of posterity will be upon the calamities resulting from the carrying out of the atrocious doctrines of that party, it requires no prophet to predict. Far be it from the democracy to have the slightest participation in the disgrace of that verdict.