The Rights of the People--Workingmen and Their Interests

Martinsburg Virginia Republican, March 30, 1861

It is the inherent right of the people to form or reform governments for their own security. Government being founded upon the consent of the governed, concedes the right of secession for just causes. Even a majority of the Union men in the Virginia Convention advocate this doctrine, and profess to be in favor of a withdrawal from the Federal government if the Northern States refuse to the South the rights guaranteed to them under the constitution. A denial of those rights has led to the dismemberment of the Union. There is no reasonable ground to justify the belief that the North will ever yield the rights they have denied, while the border States remain in the Union, and the only hope of a reconstruction is in the adoption of the constitution of the Confederate States by the free States and the border slave States. The only thing likely to convince the free States that this will prove to their interest will be the withdrawal of the border slave States from the Union. The Union being dissolved, the effects are lamentably felt by the border slave States; and they have no escape from them except in uniting their destinies with the South. That their interests and duty require this course, all must be convinced who will calmly and dispassionately reflect upon the subject. In proof of the position here assumed, let us compile a few facts.

Look at the condition of Virginia. The Auditor's last financial statement shows that the merchants of the State report their sales at $48,884,155. This is of goods purchased abroad. Hundreds of merchants take out licenses for amounts less than their sales. It is safely estimated therefore that $60,000,000 worth of goods purchased at the North are sold in Virginia. The tariff exceeds on an average considerably 20 per cent, but at 20 per cent on this sum would yield a revenue, over and above the cost of collection, of $10,000,000, which is taken from the pockets of the people of Virginia to benefit and build up the North. In the period of six years it would pay the State debt, including the expenses of the State government, and entirely relieve the people from the taxation under which they are now groaning. What encouragement would it give Virginia to embark in manufacturing? Not only would she be able to manufacture for her own people, but for those of the Cotton States. Her advantages are far beyond those of Massachusetts, which, though, one of the most prosperous and wealthy of the States, does not produce half the agricultural products she consumes, of which Virginia has a surplus, and at the same time possesses far greater natural facilities for manufacturing.

What is true as to Virginia is equally so in regard to Maryland and other border States. The trade of Baltimore is now prostrated, and must result in ruin, under the present tariff, unless Maryland secedes. Her great improvement, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, can only be rendered profitable by adopting a course to secure the Southern trade. Secession is the means. Instead of affecting her Western trade, the tendency must be to increase it, because it will enable merchants in Baltimore to undersell those of the Northern and Eastern cities.

The trade of the Southern States, it is estimated, is worth annually to the North, the sum of $230,000,000. Besides this the North steals annually $200,000 worth of negroes from the South. The idea is an absurd one that secession would bring Canada down to the border, and increase the loss of negroes. A person must now risk life to capture a fugitive slave, but a different and more favorable state of things would exist when the North was taught, as she would be by secession, that in stealing negroes she would sacrifice her own interests by destroying her intercourse with the South. Feeling no responsibility for slavery, the North in her intercourse with the South, would be restrained by her interests from intermeddling with our rights, as she is in her trade with Cuba, where slavery prevails in a worse form than in any of the Southern States.

But, well is it asked, "what strides in civilization, wealth, and population would the South at once make, if the $230,000,000 now bestowed by those States upon the North, to employ her labor, were kept at home to enrich our own people, to elevate Southern non-slaveholders, mechanics, working-men and laborers? For true it is that the substratum of negro slavery at the South elevates white labor by preserving it from coarse, hard menial service, instead of degrading it as at the North."

We agree with a cotemporary that "secession will give security to slaveholders, and respectable employment and great profits to non-slaveholders, working-men and mechanics. Without it there is now no hope of Virginia being able to secure direct trade with Europe; to foster and encourage manufactures; commerce and the mechanic arts; to build roads and canals; pay the State debt; build towns and cities; increase her wealth, and multiply her population." To be "hitched" on to the North is to place her in the power of her enemy, to be taxed and ground down by her oppressor, and drained of her wealth. "Secession is enriching the Gulf States. To a greater extent we believe it would enrich Virginia and Maryland. The failure of Virginia to secede is disgracing, depopulating, and impoverishing the State."