The Position of the Southern Opposition

Nashville Republican Banner, March 29, 1860

We have often enough, and explicitly enough stated what we understood to be the leading idea upon which the Southern Opposition desire to go into the Presidential canvass, and that idea is a cessation of the slavery controversy. Without such a prerequisite, a fair, open and straightforward national contest is out of the question. With the subject of slavery as an issue between the two controlling parties, and no alternative left to the opponents of both but a choice of evils, the contest necessarily becomes purely sectional. It is unnecessary to remain long in doubt as to what must inevitably result. N0 one but disunionists can look to the issue with anything else than horror. The people of the South surely can expect to gain nothing by it. They have gained nothing thus far from this slavery contest—not even an abstraction. Majorities must rule, and minorities must submit, or resort to revolution. The persistent agitation of the question has forced nearly the whole American people to take sides. The general acquiescence which followed the Compromise of 1850, and which the Democratic party solemnly pledged itself to perpetuate, was wantonly disturbed by that party, in violation of that pledge, by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the attempt to force upon the people of Kansas a constitution which they did not approve. This policy inaugurated a renewal of the controversy, and built up a sectional party in the North, with opposition to slavery extension as the leading article of its creed, which has become complete master of the field, and is now regarded and styled by that Democratic party, whose policy spoke it into existence, as a "triumphant enemy." This is what the Democratic party, with its slavery agitation hobby, has done for the South and the country. It has developed and arrayed against the Southern institutions the prevailing sentiments of a majority of the States of the Union. And now it persists in keeping the "triumphant enemy," which it has thus invoked, in the field, fighting the South. If the destruction of the Union was the avowed object, this would be the policy that would necessarily be adopted. It cannot result otherwise.

If any right of the Southern States was imperilled—if any guaranty of the Constitution was sought to be vitiated—we would be the last to seek a cessation of hostilities. But no one will undertake to say that there is any cause for this controversy, any practical issue in which the rights of the South are involved. It is merely a war of opinions and words—a discussion upon abstract principles from which no advantage can be gained by either side, and the worst results must inevitably ensue to both.

It is time the people of both the North and the South should look at this subject without their party glasses—with a naked, patriotic eye. They will then see two parties occupying the front ground, the cohesive element in both of which, as far as ideas are concerned, is a sectional question. They will see that without this sectional cement both parties would disintegrate and become powerless. They will see the principal ingredient in this patent political glue is their own sectional prejudices, upon which they have permitted the political tricksters of the day to draw ad libitum. They will see that they have been drawn into an unnecessary and unholy contest, in the decision of which, in the abstract, they have really no stake, but the pursuit of which threatens to undo all the work of our revolutionary fathers and the patriotic statesmen who followed them.

We say the people of both the North and South should at once set about thinking for themselves upon this subject. They should do so as patriots—as men anxious to perpetuate our institutions as they have been handed down to us. But more especially should the people of the South arouse themselves. With them one of two evils must inevitably result from a persistence in this slavery agitation. Whenever the issue is made a practical one they must calculate upon finding themselves in a minority in the Union. They will then be called upon to submit to the majority, or resort to disunion. It is idle to attempt to blink the fact that the sentiment of every free State in the Union is against slavery. It has always been so and we fear it always will be so. But in the formation of our government that sentiment compromised, as did other conflicting ideas, and opposition to slavery in the free States, until aroused by the diabolical arts of demagogues, was latent and acquiescent. The harmonious working of the machinery of government can never be secured until this question is again put to rest. It is therefore clearly the duty of men of all parties to turn their faces against useless agitation. It is not only the duty, but pre-eminently the interest of the people of the South.

Democrats in the South and Republicans in the North, though they may by such a course destroy their respective party organizations, will secure a boon worth more than all parties—a harmonious Union. The North does not hope to convert the South—neither does the South hope to convert the North. We have no doubt a majority of both sections prefer the Union as it is, the Constitution unchanged, the laws enforced, and the courts respected, to either the agitation of this sectional issue, or a dissolution of the government. They have to choose between these alternatives. Those who are for perpetuating this sectional contest, knowing that neither section will ever submit to the extreme views of the other, and that the worst of consequences must result, will act with the Democratic party of the South or the Republican party of the North. Those who are for renouncing this sectional controversy, in which neither party has a practical issue at stake, will act with the party which declares itself in favor of a cessation of the slavery discussion, for the Union, the Constitution, and the Enforcement of the Laws.

For ourself, we unhesitatingly choose the latter. We are willing to sacrifice abstract political views upon minor questions in supporting a ticket nominated upon and pledged to such a policy. We regard it as a paramount duty to so act as to secure the UNION against the perils of a sectional contest, first, and to defer the settlement of subordinate questions until that object is accomplished. We believe that in the Union and under the Constitution, the rights of all sections are secure, and therefore, our platform and our policy is true both to the Union and the sections. It is a platform for the whole country, and the only one now before the country, or likely to be put before the country by the respective party conventions, upon which a Union man can consistently place himself—and therefore the only one that IS NATIONAL.