Subjugating the South
Indianapolis Daily Journal, April 27, 1861
Much indignant exclamation and speculation are wasted these days, by rebels and sympathizers with rebels, on the folly of trying "to subjugate the South." They tell us "it can never be done, that every drop of blood in the South will be shed first, and if it were done it could never be kept done; the high spirited Southerner would die a great many times before he would be held a subject of any Government 'by force.'" And taking all this for granted, they ask "Why on earth, then, go on with this war? Why not quit now, and let the seceded States go away quietly to themselves, and try the experiment of a government based on slavery without interruption?" A few words in reply to this twaddle. There was a time when these questions were pertinent and prudent. Before the seceded States had attacked the Nation, and insulted its authority, the question of an agreed separation was, to our mind, an important one. But the case is changed now. So changed that what before might have been a mere friendly consent to a little governmental experiment, is now no less than national suicide. We must fight now, not because we want to subjugate the South, or because its subjugation would be advisable if it were possible, but because we must. The Nation has been defied. The National Government has been assailed. If either can be done with impunity neither Nation or Government is worth a cent. We are not a Nation, and our Government is a sham. It can do nothing, say nothing, protect nothing, assail nothing, if any State, or part of a State, objects. Before it was assailed, it might have consented to the separation of the South without any exhibition of weakness, without, indeed, appearing otherwise than as kindly tolerant of a foolish whim. But when attacked, consent to separation is a confession of weakness, a declaration to all the world that the Government can't help itself when injured, and dares not resist if assailed. Such a Government no nation on earth will live under. The stupidest tribe of Dahomey could demand something better. Now if we are not to have such a Government, we must make it respected, by showing those that assail it that they can't do it without punishment. We are fighting, therefore, not to subjugate the South, but to maintain over ourselves a Government that we can respect, that can command obedience, and enforce it. In other words, we are fighting for the existence of our own Government, and not for the destruction of that at Montgomery. Let any one think a moment, and he must see that war now is necessary to the maintenance of our Government over ourselves. Would any man pay a tax to a Government that didn't use the money to protect him?—Would any man live in a country that could not secure his use of his own property? No! What else would the United States be than such a helpless thing, if its citizens could be made prisoners of war, its vessels captured, its property plundered, without resistance, by any disaffected section of its subjects which felt disposed to try it? Nothing. If we visit no penalty upon those that have assailed the Government, we simply surrender the Government. That is the whole case. War is self preservation, if our form of Government is worth preserving. If monarchy would be better, it might be wise to quit fighting, admit that a Republic was too weak to take care of itself, and invite some deposed Duke or Prince of Europe to come over here and rule us. But otherwise, we must fight. When we have compelled the seceded States to feel the penalty of their crime, have learned them and all the world that rebellion here is not a pastime that anybody can indulge in when they run short of money of their own and want to find some way to rob others without punishment; have shown that our Government is a fact and a power however assailed, we have done enough to vindicate it to ourselves, to make it honorable and fit to keep, and we may quit. Then, and not till then, we may discuss the question of "subjugating the South." First we must decide whether we will be subjugated by the South by letting it war upon us without resistance, and having decided that in our favor, then we must decide about subjugating the South. If the battle goes against us we shall never have any occasion to trouble ourselves about what we will do with the South. If it goes for us it will be time enough when the victory is won to determine whether it will be best to force the South into a hateful association, or send her away, chastised into decency, to do what she will, in a world that will then see how mean, false and weak she is. First vindicate our own Government, give it the right to our own respect, and then we may discuss the policy to pursue towards the South.