To the Friends of the Constitution and the Union
Nashville Daily Patriot, October 13, 1860
The Presidential contest is rapidly approaching a termination. But twenty-four days more, and the field will be won or lost by the friends of the Constitution and the Union. Are they thoroughly alive to the importance of the struggle? Do they fully appreciate the momentous results which are suspended in the balance, and which but a slight weight may determine irrevocably against their peace and happiness, and the permanency of their government?
Since the adoption of the Federal constitution issues so grave as those now pending have never occupied the attention of the people. The crises through which the government has hitherto passed, subjecting it to severe tests, and calling forth into active exercise the wisdom, sagacity, and patriotism of leading statesmen of the times in which they occurred, fall far below the present in the imminence of the disasters which are threatened. The memorable controversies of 1820, 1832 and 1850, portentous as they were of evil, yet afforded grounds of compromise upon which the sections could meet, and harmonize. But now the unnecessary and wanton agitation of questions growing out of the institution of slavery—agitation commenced and kept up for the suicidal purpose of building up parties,—has precipitated upon the country the danger of consigning the administration of the government to a great sectional party organized in hostility to, and kept together by the pledge of war upon constitutional rights of an entire section of the Union. The aggressive spirit of anti-slavery fanaticism has been made too apparent for even the most confiding to doubt what will be its course when invested with the power and patronage of the government. Wherever it has had power, no constitutional barrier could impose restraint upon its action. It has claimed to be governed by a higher law than constitutions or human obligations; and mocked at their restrictions. Unwilling to await the development of its intentions in the administration of the government, we find States in the South prepared for taking such steps as shall sever their connection with a government administered under its influences, and leading men, and other organs of public sentiment, in a majority of the Southern States, declaring they will never submit. The issue may be avoided or postponed, perhaps indefinitely; but there is no ground for compromise. The friends of the Constitution and Union may, by cooperation, defeat the republicans, and thus avoid or postpone the issue, and give time for the sober second thought of the North to act; but, we repeat, there can be no compromise. The republicans must abandon their sectionalism and eschew their warfare upon constitutional rights of the South, or the South must either succumb or resist. The South cannot succumb—if she does so, she is lost. It is not probable that republicanism, flushed with success, would abandon its intentions. "War to the knife" must, therefore, ensue should a republican president be elected—a war of sections and kindred, fired by the fiercest and deadliest hate, ending in the destruction of the government, for the union could not survive the shock of such a conflict. The issue in this canvass, then,—the chief issue—is not whether slavery shall be kept out of the Territories or protected there by the general government; but whether this union shall be preserved or destroyed. We fear the great masses of the people, governed too much by party feelings, have not given the matter that serious consideration which it has deserved, and are scarcely conscious of the dangers, real dangers, which hover around them. We conjure them to dismiss party feelings and turn their thoughts to the question of preserving their government, and perpetuating the blessings which it has conferred upon them, when honestly administered. "We are in the midst of a revolution, bloodless as yet," but six months may not elapse before the sound of deadly conflict upon the field of battle startle you from the seeming security in which you repose. Awake, arise, act, before it be too late. There is now no time to give to doubt and hesitation. Prompt and efficient action is demanded. Will you, friends of the Constitution and the Union, in the few but supremely important days which precede the 6th of November, counsel together, and laying aside every sentiment and purpose but that of saving the country, combine your efforts for its salvation? An army invincible in serried array, if divided, a division here, and a regiment there, a battalion in one place and a company in another, acting independent of each other, loses its invincibility and may be cut up in detail, and overcome by an inferior force. This is the danger which threatens the defeat of the legions of the Constitution and Union army. They are all powerful in numbers, and unconquerable, when they stand together; but divided as they are amongst the supporters of BELL, and DOUGLAS and BRECKINRIDGE, they bid fair to be overwhelmed by the concentrated but inferior forces of Northern sectionalism. Shall this be their fate? Shall they, who have the power to save our institutions, fail, because they cannot sink issues of small importance before an overshadowing necessity? Oh, let not posterity reproach you for such weakness and imbecility; for recklessness so fatal. Sink all party disputations to the bottomless deep; let them be supplanted by nobler considerations, for the present; and when the enemy who is thundering at our doors, and undermining the citadel of our liberties, has been vanquished, there will be time enough to adjust questions of public policy of a nature less grave. Unite, and vigorously cooperating, shoulder to shoulder, for the remainder of the contest, save the Union, and then divide into parties if you choose. If we can but pass this crisis safely, the Republican party will be scattered. It cannot prolong its existence after another defeat. It will dissolve like the mists of the morning before the rays of the God of day; and the South may secure peace and repose.