The Position of the Border States

Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, April 18, 1861

The call made by the President upon the States for seventy-five thousand men, has met with a prompt and vigorous response. Several of the States have already notified the War Department that the quota of men required of them are ready, and already a large number of them are on their way to Washington. To-morrow, more than one thousand men will leave this city for that destination. If we are to have war, it should be energetically prosecuted. A vigorous policy is half the battle.

The South is not idle either. The same energy which characterizes the Government at Washington, finds its counterpart in that of Montgomery. There appears to be no lack of confidence on the part of the people of the Confederate States in their ability to maintain their position, and MR. STEPHENS is represented to have said that seventy-five times 75,000 men could not intimidate them. We admire this American pluck. It is the spirit which animated the men of '76, and however much the most ultra men of the North may condemn the action of the people of the South, they cannot but respect the spirit of the descendants of a common ancestry. It proves that no cowardly blood flows in American veins when occasion calls for the exercise of courage and heroism. A nation like ours may be defeated, but never conquered; it may be cast down, but never destroyed. We would not humiliate or degrade the men of Virginia, whose forefathers gave to the north—west an empire, a free empire, nor the descendants of the Kentuckians, who gallantly protected and defended our infant settlements on many a battle field, and where now rest their bones as mementoes of their heroism and fraternal affection. Can the people of the north-west now raise their hands in fraternal strife against Virginia and Kentucky? Shall the memory of what they have done for us be forgotten—can it be erased from our memories and hearts? Heaven forbid the ingratitude! Let us not return evil for good. Let us rather concede to them all that they may require for the security of their institutions, and all, nay even more than the rights they claim under a common constitution and government.

The border States have not yet seceded. They can not desert the more Southern States with whom they are identified by the ties of both interest and consanguinity. Against the influence of such sentiments they have struggled for the integrity of the Union. If the Confederate States have been precipitate, say even wrong in their action, can it be expected that parents will desert their children? All we know is that Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri have refused to respond to the call of the President for militia to aid in subduing the Confederate States. Masterly inactivity may be their policy.

The President's proclamation sets forth the employment of the militia called out as follows: "The first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will be to repossess the forts, places and property which have been seized from the Union." If the border States do not secede the forces will be sent to retake the forts, places and property seized from the government in the Confederate States. Charleston, Savannah, Pensacola, New Orleans and the entire coast of the Southern Confederacy will be the seat of war. The effort will be to blockade all the Southern ports, cripple, if not entirely destroy commerce and thus enforce the return of those States to their allegiance to the Federal Government. The North have the navy, the men and the money to prosecute the war with vigor and probably with success. If left alone it will be in the power of the North to cut off their trade entirely, which would result in bankruptcy and ruin, while the Northern States left free would feel but little if any inconvenience from the struggle. These results are based upon the calculation that the border States take no part in the controversy, except to preserve the integrity of their soil from either Northern or Southern armies. On the other hand the Confederate States will have the advantage of being the invaded territory, with an inhospitable climate. The latter will cut off more men than the sword. Left alone, the Gulf States will find it an unequal strife; but if the border States unite their destiny with the Southern Confederacy, the dissolution of the Union may be regarded as inevitable. A fearful responsibility rests upon the action of Virginia, both to the North and to the South. Secession on her part will carry with her nearly all of Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. The balances of the Union tremble upon her decision. If she goes out, upon her soil will commence the struggle, the intercinine strife, as bloody and revengeful as ever darkened the pages of history. The government which has challenged the admiration of the world, and which has conferred more personal liberty and happiness than has been ever enjoyed in any other, will be converted into two or more military despotisms, and, instead of peace and prosperity, we shall have contention and adversity.

And what necessity for this strife? Party spirit will have precipitated it. A little concession—a little compromise upon abstractions mostly—abstract party dogmas—would have prevented the fierce struggle which now threatens to deluge the land with blood. We can only hope that when the forces of the North and South are congregated, the leading men may pause in the madness which now impels them, and consider the consequences of the conflict. As against the Gulf States the North must eventually triumph, but against an united South can the North expect to conquer? The position of the border slave States will determine the issue.