The Position of Pennsylvania

Harrisburg Daily Telegraph, April 4, 1861

In the great revolution which is now threatening the peace and prosperity of this Union, and which has already accomplished its partial dismemberment, the position of Pennsylvania must be both peculiar and important. In the Union of the States as first formed, that position was very important, both in its geographical boundaries and political aspects. Occupying, politically, the position of an arbiter by reason of her conservative influences, the Keystone State has always been regarded with the most friendly feelings by the extremists of both sections. In this particular, the influence of this State has been directed to the peaceable adjustment of more than one vexed question, and in all the compromises which have been asked and conceded by the people of one section to those of another, Pennsylvania has played a most important part. Her people are distinguished not alone for the genius which has made them renowned in their pursuits of the mechanic arts and sciences, or the development and cultivation of the soil, but for a comprehension of and devotion to principle, which the people of few of the other Commonwealths evince or practice. Already in this crisis, through her Representatives in the Peace Congress, the Voice of Pennsylvania was potential in proposing and passing a measure of adjustment that has at least temporarily arrested revolution in one section, while it gave to the people of another section time to deliberate and prepare themselves for any emergency which might arise in the future.

If, in the progress of secession and rebellion, the States of the Union should be permanently dissolved, and all hope of reconstruction removed, the position which Pennsylvania will then occupy will give a different aspect to her interests and a different direction to her energies. Geographically, Pennsylvania is located immediately between the great west and the States in the east which depend most on the trade and production of the west to support their manufacturers. The dependency between the east and the west is in fact reciprocal, while the means of supplying this dependency must pass through Pennsylvania, thus constituting her the great highway of trade between the most useful, wealthy and powerful sections of the Union as it once existed. The direct shipment of goods from either Boston or New York for the west, would of course be the safest and cheapest by rail, while a continued transit by railroad necessarily carries such goods through Pennsylvania, over our own great lines of travel. The transit by the lakes or any other route, renders trans-shipment necessary, involving a cost and delay to which the trade between the two sections would not submit.

The advantages to be derived from such a position are not now easily to be calculated, nor can we at once perceive all the benefits which would flow from such advantages. This trade and travel, passing through Pennsylvania, would constantly keep her own resources and skill in labor employed, while she would loose none of her ancient importance as the keystone of the Federal Arch, by becoming the keystone of an arch stretching from the Atlantic ocean to the banks of the Mississippi. As trade increased, her iron and coal would be in demand beyond her eastern and western borders—while the old industry which heretofore made her capable of contending with foreign and domestic competition, will gather new vigor when she is placed in a position where her strength will be aroused to new energies. If the worst comes to the worst, Pennsylvania will not be the worst State in any Union that may be formed of which she is a member. She has too many of the elements of greatness within her territory to suffer materially by separation—too much energy to be dismayed by opposition from abroad, and has only to fear the political chicanery in her own midst, that has oftener humbled her independence and pride, than it has affected her energy and prudence. No State has been less cared for by federal legislation than Pennsylvania. No State thrown more upon her resources—and no people compelled to contend against more obstacles in trade and commerce, than the citizens of the State of Pennsylvania. While the material interests of other States were constantly mixed up with legislation—while the west was exhausting enormous grants of lands, and the South was drawing from the inexhaustible treasury of the nation the means of preserving their position in the nationality of States, and fostering and protecting their peculiar institution—while all these advantages were being derived from the Federal Government—the great State of Pennsylvania was compelled to behold English iron on its way for the erection of western railroads, and at the same time keep pace with the strongest of her rivals, and excel even those States in development and progress, which were deriving all the aid and power of the Federal Government to accelerate their improvement. Surely, however gloomy the future may appear, and whatever the changes may be that now threaten the destinies of the States of this once glorious Union, Pennsylvania has only to buckle on her armor to be ready to battle for and conquer any good she may desire.