The Impending Contest
Grand Rapids Daily Enquirer, April 18, 1861
While we have no desire to discourage the patriotism or loyalty of any man, we do wish to impress upon the minds upon all a few truthful reflections regarding the nature of the war which seems inevitably brought to our doors. If we must have war, then we are for every man's doing his duty, by sustaining the constituted authorities, 'till they see fit to order otherwise. Let every man who can do so without violating his family obligations, buckle on his sword, shoulder his musket and fight for his country. It matters not whether the Government be right or wrong, the citizen does no wrong in sustaining the Government.
But let us for one moment glance rapidly over the lamentable and deplorable characteristics which distinguish this conflict. It is a deadly strife between men of the same country, of the same kin, of the same interests, of the same sense of rights in degree, of equal valor, of equal determination—between friends. There are many things which in the hour of excitement we overlook. We feel that the honor of the Nation has been assailed, but seem to forget by whom the insult has been offered. If we did not forget, then the fact is one of great significance. It tells us that in the depths of our thoughts, we have already recognized dissolution, a separation of this grand Republic into two alien sections. In the name of the blessed memories of our first great struggle, let us stifle this maturing and dangerous feeling. Let us still consider all the denizens of this Union, thrice glorious Union, one people, still linked together by ties which our fore-fathers wielded in the dark hours of the Revolution.—Let us look upon the South as brothers. It is true that in contemplation of law; they have been guilty of treason and rebellion. Still, are they traitors and rebels? Does any man believe that they are conscious of crime or guilt in the action they have taken? Does any man believe that they are not contending for an independence they believe themselves justified in claiming? Did they not declare their faith and intent long ago, if emergencies which have arisen, should so arise? Were we not timely advised of their position? Were we not warned of the result which has taken place? Why did the North refuse to credit their bold proclamation? Why did the North stigmatize it as mere threat and bravado? And when the threat and bravado became realized facts, why did the North refuse to manifest a friendly and conciliatory disposition towards the seceding States? Why did they preserve a dumbness and sterility, that was deadening the heart of the Nation? Why was a systematized scheme adopted for compelling the Confederate States to render their government a consistent one by carrying out measures that any independent nation would have done, and thus initiate hostilities? And now that the proximate onus of this thing has been absolutely forced upon the South, the people are called upon to vindicate the honor of the government. And so long as that call is held out to us, fight we must. Who are the men we are called upon to visit with the sword? They are as noble and gallant a people as ever trod the Almighty's footstool. They are men whose gardens have been wet with the blood of many battles, fought for our independence. They are men who were first on Mexico's soil to vindicate our honor, and last to leave it. They poured out their life's blood without stint or shrinking. In their strong hands the stars and stripes never yet were lowered upon any battlefield where the glory of American arms was tested. They are bound to us by the strong bond of common enterprise, and common glory. And there are nearer and dearer ties. The mystic links of kindred love, knit Northern and Southern hearts, in a woof of common blood.—The same purple current from the same parental source which animates Northern hearts and inspires them with undying patriotism, flows in the veins of our Southern kin, and produces the same analogous impulses. Can any man enter with any feeling of pride, joy, or with any feeling of hatred, or revenge, into a breaking and sundering of these arteries of the Nation? Do the proud recollections of the days of yore, days when remembrance manifests itself by unbidden tears and throbbing hearts, stimulate us to lift our hands against these living memorials of the heroes who have passed away to the presence of God? Are they not our friends? Are there no pleasing associations that still linger in our souls, of noble hearts and chivalrous spirits who are dwellers in the Southern land?—What sort of a commentary will History pass upon us? Brothers armed to strike down brothers.
Who does not sicken at the thought of all this? And when we reflect upon the clouds which will overhang the domestic heaven, which will darken our streets and drive out the sturdy din of commerce, do not some feelings of sadness come over our souls? Let us meet these dreadful results with manfulness, and yet with sorrow, never with rashness or delight.