The Policy of Republicans
Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, February 4, 1861
To our apprehension, never was there [a] simpler matter, and one more easily comprehended, than the cause of the difficulty now existing in the country. Palpable facts, as well as the uniform and oft repeated assertions of Southern men, who are at the bottom of the difficulty, put it beyond question. The cause is, the fact, as manifested by the recent election of the dominance of a sentiment in the country, which does not regard the principle, or system, or policy of African slavery, as the chief good and chief interest of the country, to be protected and preserved at all hazards, even at the expense of any and all other interests.
It is not claimed that the party which is successful has ever done anything to the detriment of Slavery. It could not be claimed, with the least show of even common sense, for the reason that the party never before having been in power, could, by no possibility, have harmed it in any manner. Nor is it claimed that the party, when it comes into power, proposes any particular thing to the detriment of Slavery, where it has any shadow of a constitutional right to exist.—It is not claimed, because search would be vain for any evidence to base such an assertion on.
It is simply claimed that the late election has revealed the dominance of a sentiment in the country which, as we said, does not regard Slavery as a thing to be fostered by the hand of the General Government. It is not enough that this sentiment does not propose to meddle with Slavery—that it is a sentiment, in fact, which so far as Slavery is concerned, is really more of a sentiment to let it alone, than to interfere with it in any manner. Indeed, that is the main complaint against it—that it does propose to let Slavery alone; the South understanding well that nothing can make the institution strong or even respectable, except the undivided energies of the General Government, and that, if left to itself, it must pass into the course of ultimate extinction.
Such being, beyond peradventure, the grievance of the South, there is no occasion whatever for becoming confused as to the remedy. The remedy is as simple as the disease.
It is only to abandon the sentiment which the late election manifested. Simply to have LINCOLN come into power—to do precisely what BRECKINRIDGE would have done had he come into power—maintain Slavery as the corner stone of our Republican Institutions—and the difficulty is at once at an end and the Union saved. Nor is there any other remedy for it; and it is folly to talk of any other. To propose any other concession or compromise to the South is to insult it by denying the honesty and candor of its own assertions as to its grievances. We speak, of course, of the remedies which negotiation or legislation involves. And our remarks are just as applicable to the Border States, as to those further South. The Constitution now stands just as far in support and protection of Slavery, as the People of this Nation are willing to go in that direction. The Republican party won power on a platform quite as moderate, in that respect, as the temper of the People would tolerate. There is, then, no concession we can make in that direction without sacrificing everything. One backward step and the Republican party tumbles from its platform into an unfathomable gulf. The Virginia Resolutions probably indicate as mild a concession as the Border States—that is, those which demand any concession at all—will submit to. Can we accede to those demands? Do not they sacrifice everything just as fully as the demands of the most ultra Cotton States?
What the necessity, then, of becoming confused or disordered or disorganized? What the object of moving toward concessions, if we are not prepared to sacrifice everything? Who can tell what possible good can arise from sending delegates to the Border State Convention, or any other Convention, unless those delegates have authority to make an unconditional surrender of all the principles, purposes and objects of the Republican party? What the use, then, of denying our master, of seeking to escape from, or to deny the legitimate deductions of our own triumph, or of our own labors? If that triumph was not the triumph of the free sentiment in the Nation, and if our labors were not directed to that end, for heaven's sake, will some one tell us for what we have been struggling? Timid Republicans, pursued by the Pro-Slavery power, may, like the hunted ostrich, thrust their heads in the sand, but will they hide the purposes and objects of the Republican party thereby?
Never was the policy of the party plainer—never had it less to confuse it. The manifest facts of the nature of the opposition to it should make it as one man.
It has won power under the Constitution, precisely as the Pro-Slavery party has heretofore won power. It is entitled under the Constitution to that power. It is not called on to amend the Constitution, or in any manner to buy the right to that power. It is cowardly—it is a wrong to the Constitution and the Government to talk of it even. We should turn our ear as deaf as a stone, to any and every proposition which looked to even a consideration of compromise or constitution-mending, as a condition precedent to its peaceable possession of the Government, and obedience to the Government by all the members thereof.
From the action of the Illinois Republicans, and from other sources, we have reason to believe such is the position of President LINCOLN. It is the only position which contemplates saving the Government without first destroying it—and that in the hands of Mr. LINCOLN it is the policy which will save the Constitution and Union, and restore the country to peace, we do not doubt. Will not the Republicans everywhere stand by this policy?