Political Probabilities

New Orleans Bee, May 30, 1860

In estimating the probabilities of a reunion of the divided segments of the Democracy, it is important to bear in mind several important facts. There is a double dissension pervading the ranks—one arising from a difference of principle, the other having reference to personal animosities. With respect to the first, it is well understood that for some years a small, but not utterly uninfluential, band of Southern Democrats have assumed extreme opinions on the slavery question, and have steadily required from the Democracy such acknowledgments of doctrine as could not be reasonably expected. In default of these concessions, this faction has invariably threatened rebellion and disorganization. Latterly the numerical feebleness of the ultra wing has been considerably strengthened by accessions from the ranks of the Southern Democracy—so much so, indeed, that at the meeting of the Charleston Convention they proclaimed their immutable adherence to a platform embodying their views, and when the decision of the majority was announced against them they threw up their commissions and bolted. This political faction is composed of two distinct elements—one revolutionary and radical, the other more moderate and less exacting. The one will accept nothing short of the formal recognition of its principles; the other would be contented with a compromise. One would infinitely rather break up the Democratic party than surrender a jot or tittle of its demands; the other would be willing to yield something for the sake of harmony, a united party, and the prospect of a triumph. It is evident, therefore, that in the existing schism, the radical element may be expected to reject all overtures of reconciliation unless accompanied by the explicit recognition of its creed, while the conservative element will strain every effort to get back to the Convention, or so to influence its counsels as to afford a decent pretext for patching up a peace. We may consequently expect that unless the Baltimore Convention should give way, and surrender at discretion to the Seceders, a portion of them, probably confined to the States of South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and possibly Arkansas, will maintain their independent attitude, and place in nomination those who may be considered the most fitting exponents of their political faith. We may add that this fraction of the Seceders desire probably in their secret souls that the feud should remain unhealed, as they are at heart disunionists, and conceive that the disintegration of the Democratic party would be an infallible initiative to the wished—for consummation.

Should, however, such a contingency be possible as the settlement of the question of the platform, there lies behind another fruitful source of discord, another teterrima causa belli. It is the question of men. The North, in a great measure, and a part at least of the South, have declared in emphatic terms their preference for DOUGLAS. The Seceders, together with a number of those who refused to abandon the Convention, are inflexibly opposed to him. The quarrel has assumed proportions far beyond the mere personal rivalry of two or more favorite candidates. The advocates and the opponents of DOUGLAS assail each other with inconceivable fury and spite. They wage against one another a more deadly warfare than against Black Republicanism. In fact the mutual hatred and malignant recrimination have gone so far that, with all our experience of Democratic elasticity, we are unable to perceive how either wing would tolerate the triumph of the other. Suppose for instance that DOUGLAS should be nominated by the Baltimore Convention, we have not the shadow of a doubt that his violent Democratic adversaries, especially in the South, would endeavor to ruin his chance of success, by starting another candidate. Suppose DOUGLAS to be rejected by the Convention. It appears to us equally certain that his ardent friends would run him as an independent nominee in every State where they possess sufficient strength to get up an electoral ticket. There would indeed be one way of cutting the Gordian knot, viz: for Senator DOUGLAS to withdraw from the contest; but this, we fancy, he feels little inclined to do, since he is the unquestionable choice of a majority of the Democratic party; and besides if he were magnanimous enough to desire to immolate himself for the sake of the party, we apprehend that his leaders would not suffer him to commit political suicide.

Thus we are compelled to acknowledge that the Democratic party is in a dangerous and perplexing situation, with but a gloomy prospect of extrication from its embarrassments. The schism at Charleston, whether preconcerted or not, has proved a fatal error. It has engendered a world of strife and ill-feeling utterly inimical to any cordial reconciliation hereafter. The very fact of the existence of so terrible a split is the most convincing evidence of the progressive denationalization of the Democracy. Sectionalism has corrupted it and destroyed its cohesiveness. Even the attractions of power and office are incapable of resisting the centrifugal influences of Northern fanaticism and Southern sectionalism. Everybody with half an eye can behold these influences at work. Why, even in the Senate of the United States we have DOUGLAS attacking DAVIS and defending himself, and DAVIS and BENJAMIN abusing DOUGLAS and his doctrines, and PUGH vindicating the Little Giant. In other words, Democrats, men professing to belong to the same party, are squabbling over theories, and angrily denouncing one another as recreant to Democratic principles. From all of which the impartial reader will wisely conclude that there can be no homogeneity of principle among them. If, with so formidable a foe in the field, Democracy cannot heal its dissensions, but must needs enfeeble itself by intestine strife, does it not demonstrate how wholly unworthy it is of the confidence of the country.

We believe, nevertheless, that there is a national and Union sentiment among the people which will finally crush out brawling faction. We hold with a Northern journal that the political party which, in the present Presidential contest, places itself in harmony with this rising sentiment of national life, will be the one that will secure predominance during this generation, just as Jeffersonian republicanism and Jacksonian democracy, respectively, secured it during the past sixty years. The leaders of the Democratic organization might effect this glorious object, but have they enough of intrinsic vigor and strength, enough of self-sacrificing spirit, to throw aside abstractions, bury their personal quarrels, stick to a national platform, and bring forward a national man?