A National Convention

Grand Rapids Daily Enquirer, April 6, 1861

It is now very evident that nothing can be done, in the way of adjusting our national troubles, except through a National Convention. A National Convention has been spoken of, and favored by the President. None would more gladly favor this suggestion than we, did we believe that it could be possibly carried out, in its design and intent, and with any good to the country. But the manifold difficulties which must inevitably attend its successful formation, are so great as almost to preclude the possibility of that formation. In the first place Congress can call such a convention only upon the demand of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the States.—Therefore under the present enumeration, twenty-two States are necessary to this end. There are thirty-four, of whom eight have practically withdrawn from the Union. It is not likely that the abolition element in Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Vermont, would even permit any demand from those States.—It is claimed by that wing of the Republican party, that any amendment less restrictive of slavery than the present provisions of the Constitution cannot be submitted to. So that any Convention for such a purpose, would never command their support. They also claim that the South have no justification of withdrawal, that the concession of such a right would be in violation of every principle of governmental law, and therefore inadmissible. So that, a Convention for the purpose of proposing any amendment whereby the disaffected States could withdraw, would be opposed by them, to the end. And we confess that there is much reason in this last proposition. We are not sure but what it is sound doctrine. We are far more willing to recognize secession as an accomplished fact, than to recognize the right, by constitutional amendment. And again, many months must of necessity elapse before the Legislatures of the several States could convene. Then Congress must be assembled, and endless time consumed in unnecessary discussions. One or two years must elapse before a Convention could by any means be assembled. During all this time however, some policy in regard to seceded States must be adopted. If coercive, it at once neutralizes any benefit that might result from the action of the Convention. If peaceful, it must involve a recognition of the de facto government. The Montgomery Cabinet will go on, consolidating its power, extending its resources, receiving from other nations their congratulations and hearty support for the free traffic system, holding out to the Border States the benefits and protection which their Constitutions gives the slaveholding system, founding an immovable and formidable power.—And it cannot be disputed that should the present state of things continue six months longer, the remaining moi[e]ty of the slaveholding States will have joined those already withdrawn. Every question of interest, of self-preservation, affords them that solution, and we really cannot see how they could do otherwise. Still it should be prevented if possible.

It is easy to perceive that a National Convention would be of a strongly Republican character, unless a tremendous revulsion in the political status of the North should take place. If Republican, any amendment such as they demand would not be accorded, for the Republican party would oppose any recognition of the right to extend slavery. Verily, what will they do? Under present aspects, a National Convention would be a mere mockery. Even should the Convention settle upon some proposed amendment or amendments, they must be ratified by a vote of three-fourths of the States. Any two States could therefore under the present condition of things, prevent their adoption. How slender the chance thus of receiving the adoption of such amendments as would be settled upon. As regards those States already out of the Union it could do nothing except in paving the way for reconstruction, and that it would not do, so long as Republicanism is a political power. No, we must accept what has befallen us. And when one thinks of the unhappy condition of our country, when one remembers that it was once peaceful and prosperous, he cannot but in his heart, demand from history the perpetuation of the infamy of that party which was too sectional, too selfish, too grasping, too fanatical, to preserve the integrity of the Union. The chronicles of the present will be a sad narration of national disintegration through folly and wickedness.