The Position of the Cotton States

Louisville Daily Courier, December 20, 1860

Those in the border Slave States who are willing to give up everything that freemen should hold dear, to maintain the existing Union, and, if that cannot be done, desire to fasten these States on as the tail of the Northern Confederacy, complain bitterly of what they call the precipitancy of the Cotton States, and are indignant because the latter do not wait for Kentucky and Missouri to inaugurate some movement for the preservation of their property and make a demand for the protection of the rights guaranted to them and their citizens by the Constitution.

And when the people are told that the border Slave States lose ten times as many negroes, and suffer ten times as many inconveniences, through the hostility of the Northern people to their institutions, as the Cotton States do, and that, for this reason, the latter should at least bear with the few wrongs inflicted upon them, until those who suffer so much more, and who stand between them and danger, should feel it their duty and interest to act, it is not without effect. And this is the favorite argument of the submissionists here:—that Kentucky and the border Slave States suffer more seriously than South Carolina and the Cotton States from the Abolitionized North; that they are between the latter and danger; and that the "precipitancy" of the States now in the act of withdrawing from the Union does not arise from any apprehensions of danger, but is founded upon a treasonable purpose to break up the Union, to promote which they make LINCOLN's election the pretext and occasion.

If it is true that Kentucky loses more negroes, and is in a more exposed position than South Carolina, it is unquestionably equally true that the latter, in common with the other slaveholding States, has been wronged, insulted, injured, and attempted to be degraded from her equality in the Union. This cannot be controverted by any advocate for the North, nor denied by any apologist for the conduct of the people of the Free States. And being true, it is of itself a refutation of the position assumed by the Southern men with Northern principles, who so offensively complain because the Cotton States do not see proper to wait for the border States, which are so slow in moving; for the principle is the same, and the indignity quite as great, whether the property involved is valued at one cent or one dollar, at one dollar or one million; and the principle once conceded, and the indignity once submitted to, the one cannot easily be regained, nor the other well resented. If Kentucky has a right to withdraw from the Union, or to resist oppression by the Federal Government or wrong doing by the States, to save all her negroes, South Carolina has the same right, neither more nor less, to act in her sovereign capacity for the protection of the property of her citizens, though the loss of but a single slave is involved. In either event, it rests with the State in question to act or not to act, as her people think wise, proper, or necessary.

But the people of the Cotton States are influenced not alone by the principle involved, for that might be saved by a solemn and formal protest; not alone by the value of the property that may be lost through the nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law, for that would not equal the cost of the civil war with which they are threatened; not alone by the attempts that have been made to incite their slaves to insurrection and murder, nor by similar attempts with which they are menaced; not alone by that sense of insecurity which they are told by Northern men prevails throughout their length and breadth; but they see that their submission now to all the wrongs they have suffered, all the indignities that have been offered them, all the injustice that has been done them, all the bad faith of which they have been the victims, all indorsed and made their own by enough of the people of the Free States to choose a President—to the "irrepressible conflict" with their institutions and rights proclaimed long since by individuals and now made the policy of the Federal Government by the voice of the people—to be deprived of their rights in the common property of all the States, of their equality in the Confederacy, and of all the benefits secured to them by the Constitution, to which the principles of the Black Republican party are indirectly antagonistic,—their submission to these things now, if submission were possible, they know, must be followed in a few years with other evils of greater magnitude than these, from the contemplation of which the mind recoils horror-struck—evils the border States might escape, but from which they could not flee.

In the Union we see no reason to hope that the war on slavery will ever cease. —The settled hostility of the Northern people must become stronger with each year. The present dominant party in the Free States, based upon the single idea of opposition to the extension, spread, or existence of slavery, now numbering in its rank nearly two millions of voters, will become more powerful as the sentiment upon which it is founded gains strength and intensity. It has now secured the President. In two years more at most it will have both Houses of Congress. Then the Supreme Court will be reorganized; and Mr. TRUMBULL's recent by-authority boast that we shall have "no more Dred Scott decisions" will be made good.

Anti-slavery is progressive and aggressive. As it gains in strength, its determination to extirpate the object of its hate from the country becomes more fixed and irradicable. The effect of this warfare is seen in Delaware, now almost free, and felt in the border counties of the border Slave States. The operations of the Underground railroad and the certainty of escape when once the line is passed, take from 1,500 to 2,000 slaves from this State alone each year. This loss principally falls on the border counties and the tier back of them. As this property becomes more and more insecure, holders sell it to those living further South. How long under present auspices will it be before that portion of this State lying on the Ohio river will be practically "free territory?" Kenton county, the second most populous in the State, had, in 1858, less than six hundred slaves; Campbell county, directly opposite Cincinnati, Ohio, has less than two hundred; Mason county, both wealthy and populous, had in 1840, 3,785 slaves, in 1843, 4,992, now scarcely 3,ooo; Jefferson county hasn't as many slaves as were in it ten years ago. If this perpetual warfare is kept up ten years longer, by a party strong enough to control the legislation of the adjoining States, and backed by Personal Liberty Bills and such legal "aid and comfort," the time is not far distant when the counties in Kentucky bordering on the Ohio river will have no slaves in them; and the same remark is true in regard to the border counties in Missouri, Virginia, and Maryland. Already St. Louis, in Missouri, is Abolitionized, and Wheeling, in Virginia, is no better.

If the present Union, with no efficient provisions for the protection of Southern rights and property, is maintained, we can easily see where the "irrepressible conflict," as far as Kentucky and the border States are concerned, will end. The slaves now in them will be gradually sold to the farmers and planters of the Cotton States; and almost imperceptibly they will thus rid themselves of property, to hold which would require eternal vigilance and a constant conflict with fanaticism and folly and madness. The "border" will be transferred to the States South of us.

And then what? Anti-slavery will not be content to rest. The war will be transferred to the States where slavery will then prevail. Partial success will have but emboldened those whose prejudices and passions and partly their ignorance now impel them to demand the extinction of slave property. The war will be transferred to the Cotton States; but in them slave labor is not only of itself indispensable, but there are no States South of them to which their negroes can be sold. The people of Kentucky can, if they are not disposed to fight for their rights, get rid of their property without loss. Should the border line be transferred to the Northern boundary of the Cotton States, there will be no retreat for slavery. Hemmed in by long exclusion from the Territories, by Free States on two sides, and the ocean on the others, it will be a war of life and death, sooner or later terminating in a repetition of all the horrors of St. Domingo, at one fell swoop malting the rich and prosperous States whose exports constitute the wealth of the nation an uninhabited and habitless desert!

The Cotton States, justified by the circumstances attending and preceding the triumph of Black Republicanism, and in view of the declaration of war made on them and their property, owe it to their own citizens and the world to secure themselves now against a calamity which the continued possession of the Federal Government for a few years by the Black Republican, or anti-slavery, party will make more than possible.