The Proposed Settlement

Montgomery Daily Post, December 24, 1860

It will be seen that the Hon. ROBERT TOOMBS and Hon. T. R. R. COBB, as well as others of the most prominent statesmen and uncompromising-resistance-men of Georgia, and of other Southern States, are contemplating the possible settlement of existing difficulties between the North and the South, by such amendments to the Constitution as may be necessary to secure the rights of the South in the Union; and in the event of these amendments not being sanctioned by a sufficient portion of the North, then for the Southern States to withdraw from the Union. This would seem to be a very feasible proposition, and it is true to say, that it is ably sustained by the distinguished gentlemen that approve it. And so far as the policy of withholding final action for the present is concerned, in order to concentrate and harmonize public sentiment in the South, we think it both practical and prudent; but as to the final settlement of the question between the two sections of the Union, we have many misgivings. Suppose the North should agree to these amendments to the Constitution, what assurance have we that they would observe them any longer than it suited their purposes to do so? The present Constitution is not essentially deficient, but it has been maliciously violated; the laws that have been enacted under it are not materially inefficient, but they have been shamefully disregarded. Now, what assurance have we that additional clauses in the Constitution would not share the same fate at the hands of misguided fanatics, who are governed more by higher law doctrines than by the Constitution and laws of their country? It is no difficult matter to make Constitutions, but to have them observed is quite another matter. If the present Constitution had been adhered to, we apprehend the present difficulties never would have occurred; but it will be said that sufficient penalties should be attached to insure the observance of it. Now, let us see if this is likely to succeed. To incite servile insurrections is already recognized as a criminal offense, and the most severe penalties are imposed upon the instigator; but still they continue to occur. To abduct a slave is already declared a violation of the Constitution and of the supreme law of the land, still the underground railroad continues in operation, and even on the other hand, to traffic, in African slaves is declared piracy. Yet we are well aware that to a considerable extent the trade has been continued. Now, we would not be understood as insisting that a perfect Constitution must be adopted, and a perfect observance of it secured. These are things that imperfect beings can never attain to; but unless the government can be accommodated to the general sentiments of the people, it cannot expect to command respectful observance at their hands. One man, for instance, regards slavery as a moral wrong; another as a moral and religious evil, and a third as a moral, social, religious and political curse. Hence, no matter what the Constitution may enjoin, no matter what the law may declare, it is not to be expected that men will sacrifice their moral sensibilities, or what they consider their religious duties and obligation, in order to comply with the requirements of political governments. Before the rights and institutions of the South can be safe in the hands of Northern men, entertaining views hostile to slavery, they must be re-educated; they must learn to look upon our domestic institutions through a different angle of vision; they must be taught to regard it as we do—as a moral, social and political blessing, and not as a curse; otherwise no constitutional provision and no enactments of law, will induce them to observe it as we think they should. Without a material re-action in public sentiment upon the slavery question, we entertain but little hope of a permanent settlement of it by any constitutional form in the Union.