The Black Day
Hartford Daily Times, April 13, 1861
Friday, the 12th day of April, 1861, will be recorded as the Black Day in the history of our Republic. United States Forts firing upon United States Forts. American citizens directing the implements of death upon American citizens. The Civil War commenced. What a shocking record! O, how long will it be before this accursed state of things shall cease to exist in the memory of the People? No man can tell.
A few brief weeks ago this horrible drama could have been stopped. The troubles could have been settled as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, would have settled them—by the expression of kindly feelings among brethren—by the adoption of peace measures, of conciliation. It was only necessary to have said, "Our Territories are common property, purchased by the money and won by the blood alike of the North and South; let the line be drawn, on the Southern side of which no right of Southern men shall be questioned—and on the North of which, the freemen may erect free States at their pleasure. Each and all enjoy your rights." Then peace would have smiled all over our land. The Union sentiment would have predominated at the South and throughout the North. No evils would have followed—but joy, and prosperity, and power, and influence in the cause of Liberty all over the world, would have been the happy lot of our great Republic. This would have been the spirit and policy of friends, settling the difficulties, and conceding the rights of every section of a friendly community.
"But no!" said Mr. Lincoln and his friends. Our party platform is in the way! And Mr. Lincoln incorporated into his Inaugural Address to the American people, a portion of a party platform—a platform, too, of a mere sectional party. Then this great country was humiliated, and one half of it, in a body, was grossly insulted. No other President "of the United States," elected to preside over the Executive department of the entire federal government—to "promote the general welfare" of the entire people, ever lugged into his Inaugural address a partisan dogma. But charity attributed it to the weakness of the man, and the people tried to forget the humiliation. They were not permitted, however, to forget. True it was, that for four weeks, the promise OF PEACE was held out by the Administration, through their acknowledged organs, and the public mind was for the moment calmed. It was all false—all a deception and a trick, unworthy of an Administration of a great and generous and free people. All this time of four weeks of hope, the Administration was preparing the implements of War, and fitting out the messengers of death! For what, pray let us know? To sustain the Chicago Platform! To uphold and perpetuate a Party based upon hostility to the sentiments, the institutions, and the vital interests of fifteen sovereign States of the Republic! For this object alone, the last hope of the Union men of the South, and the true friends of the Republic at the North, is to be crushed.
But, say the "yield not an inch" Republicans, "the Southerners fired the first gun." When, and under what circumstances? As our fathers in the Revolution declared their independence of Great Britain, so have seven States at the South declared their independence of the Federal Government of the United States. Of the sufficiency of their grievances, they claimed, as our fathers claimed, that they must be the judges. In assuming this position, they asked that the forts made to protect their harbors and their cities be not used against their citizens. They claimed that the money of the South used in building forts in the Union had been sufficiently ample to erect all the fortifications in their midst. That their persons and the soil of their sovereign States were fairly entitled to the protection of the fortresses built by the side of their own roof-trees, and for the special object of defending them and theirs. But on Friday an armed fleet, with men and cannon, and arms, appeared off Charleston harbor, to provision or to re-inforce a fort—certainly to perpetuate a rule over the people who had declared themselves independent—who had, to say the least, exercised "the Right of Revolution." Could that people wait till they were taken by the throat and held in subjection? Their position had been taken. That position was invaded by a powerful force, and to save themselves, they acted; for it is not the firing of a gun that makes war, but the pitching of military tents, the anchoring of armed ships, the array of armed bands around your soil and your homes, to force you into subjection, is war without the click of a gun-lock, or the smoke from the mouth of the hoarse cannon.
Now, in the end, this controversy must be settled by treaty. The paper settlement alone will bring peace. This could have been done two months ago with great advantage to the country. Every battle and every gun that is fired complicates it. We cannot hold the South in subjection. We have no "subjects" in this country. We are equals, or we have no REPUBLIC. The question must in the end be settled by a peace measure—by a Treaty finally. War is the worst policy that can be devised in a case like this. Our Republic must be made up of friendly States, or it cannot exist. If there are any at the South who cannot and will not live with us peaceably, let them go by themselves in peace. They have already begged for this favor, but the Administration has resolved to drive them out IN BLOOD. Then in blood will they wade out, and with them all of the slave States. But this policy is an enormity, and it will bring sorrow upon the People. Last Friday was a Black Day for our country. May He in whom is the trust of individuals and of Nations, guide our Nation to a better destiny.