Seward on the Crisis
New Orleans Bee, January 15, 1861
The brief abstract published of the speech of Senator SEWARD has produced some little sensation, and excited a notable amount of discussion. It is entirely evident that Mr. Seward reflects the views of the President elect, whose Secretary of State he has consented to become. Hence the opinions expressed by the shrewd and sagacious Senator from New York on the existing crisis really merit more than passing attention. Besides, SEWARD is the foremost man of the Black Republican party, and probably commands a larger share of influence in the non-slaveholding States than any other politician. Though not seated on the throne, he is the power behind the throne, greater perhaps than the occupant himself. Few men surpass him in ability or in that bland and oily demeanor with which crafty statesmen are wont to veil their inmost thoughts. So successfully does Mr. SEWARD wear the drapery of polished manners and moderation of language, that while he is equally dreaded and distrusted by the South, he has constantly maintained friendly relations with Southern Congressmen.
When Mr. SEWARD preaches conciliation, it is incumbent on the South to watch him closely. Curt and meagre as is the summary of his remarks, we think it betrays his usual characteristics. He is anxious for Congress to redress, if it can, any real grievances of the offended States. Very magnanimous, but with important qualifications! If Congress can, it should do so and so, and if the grievances are real, they ought to be redressed. In the ample margin which SEWARD furnished, it will be hard indeed if he cannot evade responsibility, either upon the score of the inability of Congress to grant what may be demanded, or because the alleged grievances will be said not to exist. After settling these desiderata, which may be done summarily, as just indicated, Mr. SEWARD is for supplying the President with all the means necessary to maintain the Union. Of course this is the essence and staple of Black Republican harangues. They are all intensely Unionish. The Southern States have nothing to complain of; they are froward and rebellious children; they must be kept in the Union—that is, in obedience to the supremacy of Black Republicanism, peaceably or forcibly as the case may be. In Black Republican political philosophy there is no such thing as the recognition of our Federal Government as a compact. Whatever it may have been at the period of its formation, it is now simply the sway of the majority over the minority. So let the South beware how she cherishes any chimerical notions of the right to withdraw from a violated compact. The Black Republican dogma of the perpetuity and imperishability of the Union carries with it the right to resort to coercion for its enforcement. To send armies and navies to fight the South is the practical meaning of Mr. SEWARD's desire to maintain the Union.
But it is only fair to give the Senator credit for a spirit of compromise. Unlike the most truculent of the Black Republicans, he is willing to do something. Let us see the extent of his generosity. In the first place, he will not object to the repeal of the Personal Liberty bills. Extraordinary condescension, especially when it is remembered that Congress has no jurisdiction whatever over the States which have passed these bills, and therefore, that Mr. SEWARD simply expresses his individual sanction of their repeal. Next, he is absolutely disposed to vote for an amendment to the Constitution that Congress should never have the power to abolish slavery within the States. What a boon to the South! What a wonderful spirit of concession is herein displayed! The Black Republicans promise to bind themselves not to abolish slavery in the Southern States. They will steal our slaves, and abuse us with frantic violence; they will fight us with the tremendous and almost omnipotent engine of public opinion, but they will abstain from passing an act to abolish slavery. The South should certainly evince eternal gratitude to Senator SEWARD for such amazing liberality. Finally, he will support any law by which forays and raids of Abolitionists upon the slave States may be hereafter prevented. This is the merest flammery. No law can prevent misguided fanatics and zealots from putting their own necks in peril, and jeoparding the safety of the South by attempted invasion and insurrection. A reform in public sentiment is the sole available remedy, and of this specific Senator SEWARD does not and cannot promise us a particle. His compromises are therefore utterly valueless. Not one of them, nor all of them together meet the case, or would for a moment induce the South to retrace her course. Senator SEWARD'S smooth tone of conciliation, and apparently expansive patriotism mean nothing tangible, and afford no prospect of reconciliation. His speech is sublimated Black Republicanism under a flimsy disguise of kindness and sympathy for the South.