Policy of the Administration

Dubuque Herald, April 10, 1861

If the Administration has any policy at all, which may be well doubted from what has transpired, it will soon develope itself in the attempt to re-inforce Fort Sumter, and thus aggravate the already excited ire of the South, and provoke a conflict which could well be avoided, and which we cannot help thinking it were better to have prevented.

As a matter of right, in the strictly legal light, the government cannot be blamed for preserving its authority and enforcing the laws; but under existing circumstances there may be, and, in our opinion, there are, paramount and over-shadowing considerations, which should influence the government to take a widely different course from that indicated by abstract right.

Government is the creation of the people at large as much as it is an abstract power. It is an institution which derives its existence as much from the weakness of mankind to protect themselves, individually, from each other, as it does from the right of mankind to enjoy those rights of nature which are claimed to be inalienable. Whenever a government ceases to perform, or to be able to perform, satisfactorily, the functions, whatever they may be, for which it was instituted, there may be circumstances under which it might become its duty to the governed to refrain from exercising its abstract rights against citizens or subjects who may revolt against its authority on account of grievances which, to themselves, may appear to be a just cause of complaint. Such appears to be the relations existing between the Federal Government and the seceded States. They have grievances, real or imaginary, no matter which; they have lost confidence in the government as it exists; they claim the right to change it, and they are exercising that right. Now, although we sincerely believe that the grievances of which the South complains could have been redressed in the UNION and under the CONSTITUTION, and though we as sincerely regret that the disaffected States did not take the constitutional means to obtain redress, and a recognition of and security for their rights against the avowed hostility of Northern sentiment as incorporated and embodied in the Chicago Platform; the course they have taken, objectionable, irregular and revolutionary as it may be, is, nevertheless justifiable in their own eyes. And looking at their course from the point of view from which the Secessionists themselves regard it, no one who believes in the abstract right of self government and in the abstract right of revolution when governments fail to perform their duty or when they become tyrannically oppressive to a portion of the people, can condemn as absolutely and unqualifiedly wrong the course of the Seceded States. From our point of view, their course is wrong, for we believe it was not necessary for them to have recourse to revolutionary or violent means to redress their grievances, or to be secure in the enjoyment of their rights; but if we were compelled to believe as they do, that there was no means of redress of grievances left to them in the UNION and under the CONSTITUTION, nor no security for their rights as they understood them to be under and by virtue of the CONSTITUTION, we should then say, unhesitatingly, that they have done right in having recourse to those means of redress which an enlightened, Patriotic and Freedom loving People are expected to resort to when all other means of obtaining redress of grievances and security for rights have failed. To attempt the enforcement of Government authority among a people smarting under presumed indignities and violated rights is worse than folly in the government of the United States towards the seceded States. It should, first of all, endeavor to undeceive these dissatisfied people. It should show them and prove to them their presumed grievances were more imaginary than real; or if there was any foundation for them to believe that their injuries and grievances were well founded, the government should prove to them that so far as it had the power, the cause of their discontent should be removed. This and much more with the same object in view should the Government first have done, before coming down with the weight of its avenging arms upon a people whose rebellious course is the result of grievances and injuries which if real, justify them in their hostile attitude.

It is true the Government has been patient; it has been even lenient towards the Seceded States, but it has seemed to lack in all its relations to the disaffected States that necessary quality in all Governments which for want of a more appropriate term is designated by that of Parental. This quality it has not manifested as it should have done. Its patience and leniency lose their value because they do not appear to have been the result of that feeling for the waywardness of the Seceded States which comes from the heart.—The Government policy has been one of cruel disregard of complaints and of the consequences of the rashness, folly and crime of the disaffected Southern people, when by a kind word, a generous act, a magnanimous avowal of the error of the political dogma on which the Administration went into power, would have dispel[l]ed the illusions, if such they be, which have caused the South to array itself in hostility against the Government. We cannot help saying that the Government has not performed its duty in the respect to which we have alluded. It has preferred to act arbitrarily as tyrannical Governments usually do. A Parental Government would have tried remedial measures, first, before resorting to the exercise of its vengeance; but the Government as Administered by Mr. Lincoln seems to know of but one course to pursue, and that is to provoke a conflict between the Government and its disaffected people, for the purpose of co-ercing them to obey its own behests and to submit to the infliction of intolerable grievances from a fanatical faction which have obtained control of the government.