Tennessee and the War Question
Nashville Daily Patriot, April 12, 1861
Tennessee gave no votes to Mr. LINCOLN. Her people repudiated with one mind the creed upon which his friends at Chicago asked their suffrages. That creed was sectional and ran counter to their views of right, equality and justice. They were overpowered by numbers, and Mr. LINCOLN was elected to the Presidency. Tennessee was warned that such an event would lead to an attempted dismemberment of the Union. That warning has been fulfilled in every particular. At the same time her people were advised that such an event would afford no justifiable cause in itself for revolution and a dismemberment of the Union, and admonished not to take sides with those who had pre-determined to break up the Government. They thus had notice of the probable course of events, and had time to make up their minds against the approaches of the Secessionists. They did so, and declared their decision and purpose on the 9th February to stand by the Union and to sustain and uphold the Federal flag, notwithstanding the election of a man to the Presidency whose opinions were distasteful to them. This determination proceeded from their calm judgment and their loyalty and devotion to the Federal Constitution, and not from any love to Mr. LINCOLN, or from any admiration of the principles upon which he went into power. At the time they made this noble and patriotic declaration of attachment to the Union, Mr. LINCOLN had not been inaugurated, and nothing had occurred on the part of the Federal Administration then existing, to shake or weaken their devotion to the Union. They took it as it was and stood by it as it was.
Between that time and the present our State has spared no pains to effect an adjustment of our unfortunate difficulties. She has united in council with her sisters both in the North and the South, and agreed with them on a plan of settlement, which she approved and thought ought to be satisfactory to all the parties to the dispute. That plan was not accepted by a Congress friendly to the dominant party—dominant at least so far as this question, which required a two third vote, was concerned—a Congress that refused a reference of it to the people. This she tolerated with the confident hope and trust that the incoming President would do nothing to forfeit the respect or alienate the confidence of the American people, while yet the grave questions of reconciliation were in judgment. Though in terms equivocal she hailed with satisfaction the inaugural address of the President which enabled her to conclude that the policy of the Administration would be peaceful and conciliatory. While there was peace the hope that swelled in her brave and patriotic heart that the Union was not in reality dissolved; that whilst the reason and judgment of the American people were left free to act upon the momentous questions presented to them, there was a prospect that errors, wherever they may have occurred, might be ,corrected, that false steps, wherever taken, might be retraced, and the Union in all its majestic dimensions and glory might be restored on the free consent of a great people guilty of mistakes and freely acknowledging and nobly correcting them.
There is no patriotic son of hers who would not now rejoice in the realization and fruition of such a hope. But the indications from the North and the South are that the arbitrament of war is to be resorted to for a solution and decision of our troubles. This is not the choice of Tennessee. Let that be understood at the outset. It is contrary to her wishes, her instincts, her views of republican liberty. Her people flatter themselves that they are yet capable of self-government, and that in peace, without resorting to bayonets and cannon balls. But if war is inaugurated against her wishes and advice, it will cast upon her the responsibility of either taking sides with one or the other, or of acting independently of both. These alternatives will certainly present themselves the moment war is commenced; and in view of this contingency, we desire to call the attention of our readers to passing events. We wish them to consider these most pregnant alternatives. We give them facts, upon which they can rely, from day to day. Our own views and opinions we present with due deference to those of others. We cannot consent to wear even the semblance of dictators in an emergency like this; but having been long and attentive observers of the drift of political events, we give our own impressions and offer suggestions with freedom, and we now say that the alternatives presented to the people of Tennessee, in the event of actual war, will be the most important ever addressed to our reason. Shall we assist in a war of subjugation against our Southern brethren? Shall we aid in the permanent overthrow of a government to which we are so devotedly attached, by sustaining with our lives and our fortunes a sectional administration of that government which in theory denies us equality of right and of property? Or, shall we, by an act of revolution dissolve our relations with that government, and join the "Confederate States?" Or shall we act independently of both by forming a government of our own, in connection with such other States as may agree with us, under a constitution which will secure all our rights and meet our approval? These are the questions. However unpalatable, they must be considered and determined. With the first flow of blood we must consider them. All are fraught with difficulty and bristle with danger. The two first, on our espousing either, may lead to civil strife among ourselves. The last will land-lock us and make us insignificant to all the rest of the world. Let us direct our thought to these great questions, and for the present hold ourselves in the best attitude to secure our own present safety and that of our children, by avoiding hasty conclusions and standing where we are.