The Progress of Revolution--The Duty of Tennessee

Nashville Daily Patriot, April 24, 1861

The well authenticated events of the past ten days are sufficient, we imagine, to convince every reasonable mind of the utter hopelessness of a peaceful solution of the intersectional troubles which have divided the country for some years. Though these events have been attended with a degree of excitement, general and all-pervading, unknown to the present generation, they sufficiently indicate that war alone can lead us to peace. The events at Fort Sumter and the quick-following proclamation of Mr. LINCOLN calling upon all the non-seceding States for troops, together with the prompt response from the non-seceding slaveholding States refusing obedience to the call, has obliterated all party distinctions in the North and united the whole people of that section in support of the war of subjugation upon the South which is now in progress. This fact is unquestionable. We know of no influential individual or journal in the whole North who or which advocates peace, or looks to anything but the umpirage of War between the two sections. We hear but one voice from that entire region. Among all the former opponents of the party which now has control of the Federal administration, there is not one of whom we know, of high or low degree, who is not willing to stand by the administration in the vigorous and desolating prosecution of that war. We cannot deceive ourselves if we would; and for our own part we would not if we could. Whilst we have resisted this dire alternative from the beginning and urged with all our power peace and union, we are forced to the conclusion that the one is altogether out of the question, and the other is gone irretrievably.

In this condition of things our own State has been placed in a peculiar position. In the first place she declared her devotion to the whole Union so long as it could be maintained on the principles of justice and equality to every State and to each individual. This appears now to be impossible. At the same time she declared her disbelief in the idea and doctrine of "peaceable secession," but reserving to herself the inalienable right to throw off by an act of revolution the authority of the government of the Union, when by its mal-administration it became intolerable to her. She also reiterated the principle of the Declaration of Independence that all free government is based upon the consent of the people, and took decided ground against the doctrine of coercing the seceded States into an unwilling Union by force of arms. Such we understand to have been the position of Tennessee from the beginning. We understand her people to occupy the same position still. It now remains for her to determine her path of duty under these principles, and to pursue that path at all hazards. To do otherwise would be to sacrifice her honor and her liberty, and rather than do either she will suffer annihilation. This is the first question for her to decide, and in so deciding she must put herself in a condition to execute her judgment. She must therefore arm her sons. Let her make no account either of blood or treasure, but arm to the teeth, and sooner than shrink from duty, sooner than sacrifice her honor, her liberty, or her rights, give up everything else. It is these only for which freemen live; without these life itself is intolerable. Let but the great cardinal principle of free consent be overturned and freedom is at an end. To this we must look first, and in standing on this ground we must accept all the consequences, whatever they may be.

We have already set out in this glorious pathway. We have refused to furnish soldiers to aid a sectional Administration in its nefarious attempt to overturn the Constitution and to substitute in its place an unjust and unequal party platform. This is our first step. But it is not our only step. To refuse to furnish men, and at the same time consent to furnish money to carry on this war of subjugation would be worse than nonsense. We will not only not furnish men, but we must cut off money supplies. To do this we must declare in some form our independence of the government which seeks to rob us of the rights of freemen. Let us do this as soon as possible, and thus give ourselves wholly to the cause of justice and liberty. In view of past events and those every hour occurring this is demanded at our hands, without regard to consequences. We can provide for results as they come. Let us defend Tennessee from this war of subjugation and dishonor at every cost. Let us first ride successfully the storm of Revolution upon which we are thrown, and then we can determine in which harbor we shall cast anchor for future safety. In the battles which are coming we will stand in need of aid, and that aid must of necessity come from the slaveholding States—all of them. During the war there must be a united South, whether afterwards or not. The identity of object and the community of interest existing in all the slaveholding States must and will unite them for the purpose of the war which is forced upon us, and in such manner and to such extent as shall make that union most effective against a common enemy. In the raising of men, the supplying of means and in the conduct of the war there must be either entire unity or the most perfect concert. Whoever disbelieves these fundamental truths will be undeceived by experience.

Tennessee does not claim the right of secession, but she acts, like freemen ought always to act, upon the inherent right of revolution. She is already by the action of her Chief Executive and by the almost unanimous sentiment of her people in a revolutionary attitude, and she must and she will complete it. But to her, words are of little worth, and banners and flags are nothing except as the emblems of great principles. Therefore we invoke the people all over the State to permit nothing of this sort to come between them and their first and paramount duty.—Every breeze from the North tells us to arm for our own defense, every suggestion of reason and right appeals to us to fight the battles of the South as against a despotic North. This is enough for us now, and we must leave minor questions to their own day and time.