Are They Blind?
New Orleans Bee, November 28, 1860
We are sorry to remark that in spite of the clearest and most convincing manifestations, the people of the North appear afflicted with transcendental dubiety in respect to the earnestness and reality of Southern movements. The numerous public meetings in the South; the determined expression of hostility to a further political connection with the North; the evidences overwhelming and palpable of high-wrought excitement and invincible resolve—all seem lost upon them. If we are allowed to appreciate Northern feeling on the subject by the tone of its press, we must conclude that a large majority of the people of that section apprehend no serious peril to the Union. It is true they cannot possibly overlook the demonstrations in South Carolina, or deny the avowed secession movements in that State; but they continue to talk of South Carolina as if she were a froward child, to be coaxed or chastised into obedience, while they fancy, in their strange and unaccountable incredulity, that Georgia, and Alabama, and Mississippi, and Florida, and Texas, and Arkansas, and Louisiana are merely laboring under temporary excitement, and have no well defined object in view. There are journals which claim to be better informed respecting the existing phases of Southern feeling. The New York Herald and the New York Express approximate in their estimates to the true state of the case. But these are only two out of hundreds. Even as able and usually well posted a sheet as the New York Times fails fully to comprehend the issue. The Times admits that the movement at the South is a popular one—impressive on account of its unanimity and evident sincerity, and important, by reason of its bearing upon the destinies, social and political, of our common country. It acknowledges, too, with some surprise, that the movement encounters less opposition than was anticipated, from what it terms "the conservative sentiment of the South." It confesses that the secession feeling appears to have control of the public mind in all the cotton States, and in South Carolina it is unanimous. And yet while conceding all these alarming tendencies, and deducing from them discriminating and just conclusions, the Times displays the shallowness of its knowledge by attaching immense importance to the speeches of ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS, and to a few Union meetings recently held in Georgia. This is a signal and striking illustration of the ignorance which pervades the North touching Southern sentiment. Even the more sagacious spirits who see the horizon darken and hear the thunder roll, refuse to admit that the storm is near, because it has not yet burst in violence over the welkin. Others less observant can see nothing more dangerous than a passing cloud, charged, it may be, with a little harmless heat lightning.
We hold it to be a duty of the Southern press, and especially of those papers which are usually deemed conservative, to point out to the North the gross error under which it is laboring. There are two capital and pernicious mistakes in the Northern mind—first, in supposing that the Southern movement is limited in extent, or simply effervescent and fugitive in character; and next, in imagining, as does the Times, that a quiescent do-nothing policy by the North will accomplish any good whatever. We, who have ardently loved the Union, who have clung to it persistently, and will still cling to it if we can do so without dishonor, we can assure the North that its ideas of the Southern secession movements are short-sighted and inaccurate. In the first place, this disunion proclivity is an epidemic in every one of the cotton States. Those citizens who were once wont to boast their unconditional attachment to the Union have disappeared. If there are any left, they are few in numbers, and indisposed to give free vent to their opinions. The only visible difference of sentiment among the people of the cotton States regards the timeliness of immediate action. South Carolina raises an unbroken voice for unconditional secession and separate State action. She will go out of the Union as soon as her constituted authorities have made the requisite preparations. Whether accompanied or followed by others, the Palmetto State will secede.
With regard to her sister States, let the people of the North fully understand that their dominant and unalterable position is that the question has to be settled, or the Union will be dissolved. We speak now of those citizens of the South who have generally been considered moderate. There are thousands amongst us who are ripe for a more violent and precipitate remedy, and who would be ready to-morrow to march out of the Union and leave the consequences to GOD. We believe, however, the majority favor joint action by the South; that they desire to see the South assemble in convention, and deliberate and act in common. They are willing, before taking the final step of severance, to give to the North a chance of conciliation; to allow it time for reflection and retrogression. If the North is really anxious to preserve the Union, the entire weight of responsibility is with her. She is the aggressor; we the aggrieved. Her State legislation; her predominant doctrines; her prevailing sentiments; her practical enforcement of a hideous fanaticism, as just evidenced in the election of LINCOLN; her persistent abuse of and assaults upon Southern institutions; her John Brown raids and Montgomery forays—all furnish damning proof that she is the aggressor. Let not the North delude itself with the fallacious impression that anything short of a radical revolution in her policy can or will postpone or avert the calamity of disunion. Let her be assured that the South is not swayed by a temporary gust of passion; that this is no partial movement in opposition to the opinions of the masses like the Nashville Convention of 1850. Woe to the Union if the North still remains blind to the tremendous auguries and portents around her! Woe to it, if having sown the wind, the North fails to see that she is reaping the whirlwind!
There is another point to be considered, and we take occasion to state that in setting forth the views of the South we are simply making known facts. There is no remedy for the evils complained of, save an entire change in Northern policy. The South does not look upon the triumph of LINCOLN, per se, with any special apprehension, but simply regards it as the crown and capstone of grievance, the last straw on the camel's back, the drop that causes the cup of bitterness to overflow. It denotes the foregone conclusion of the North, and is the entering wedge to the series of hostile measures of which the South will be the victim if she remains within the Union. Hence the solemn and unchangeable determination of her sons to have plenary guarantees of future safety and equality within the Union, or independence out of it. The South stands upon her reserved rights. She proposes nothing; she suggests nothing. It is for the North—if sufficiently impressed with the approaching danger, and solicitous to avert it—to tender justice, and nothing short of justice will content the South.
What we have written respecting Southern sentiment is sober truth, and we trust the North may so accept it. It is as certain as any future event that unless the North is prepared to discard sectionalism in every respect, to repeal its obnoxious laws, to secure to the South the peaceful and unmolested possession of her property, to acknowledge her absolute equality before the Constitution and the laws, the Confederacy of the States will not survive the fourth of March next.