The President and the Union
New Orleans Bee, December 10, 1860
The President in his annual message is evidently at considerable pains to conciliate both sections of the Republic. He is willing to admit many of the grievances complained of by the South, but insists upon the existence of a potent conservative spirit at the North. In his statement of Southern wrongs he is not always well informed. For instance, he cites as a prominent peril of the times the malign influence of Abolition agitation on the character and conduct of the slaves themselves, and appears to imagine that every Southern fireside is haunted with the dread of domestic insurrection. This is a great though probably unintentional exaggeration of fact. The influence of Black Republican aggression on the slaves themselves is far from constituting the most prominent of the iniquities to which the South is subject, as in reality our servile population are for the most part docile and obedient, and require no extraordinary restraint or coercion to keep them so.
Another error into which Mr. BUCHANAN falls, in common with many just and fair-minded men of the North, is the belief that the South has been moved to resistance chiefly by the adverse result of the Presidential contest. We are told with marked emphasis that LINCOLN has been elected in strict conformity to the mandates of the Constitution and the provisions of the law. Now this is not denied, nor does the South profess to desire a separation exclusively or even chiefly on account of the success of the Black Republican nominee. That was but the crowning stroke to a protracted and wanton series of aggressions on the South; the last drop which caused the bitter cup to overflow; the final and fitting upshot to a long-continued policy of injustice and oppression. LINCOLN's triumph is simply the practical manifestation of the popular dogma in the free States that slavery is a crime in the sight of GOD, to be reprobated by all honest citizens, and to be warred against by the combined moral influence and political power of the Government. The South, in the eyes of the North, is degraded and unworthy, because of the institution of servitude. She is hated by the North because she holds the black race in bondage. She is persecuted because fanatics have made unto themselves a peculiar code of ethics with which the South does not agree, because she knows it to be fallacious. It is self-evident that if one-half of the people of a country look upon the other half as in the perpetual commission of a heinous offense before GOD, and disseminate the doctrine that they are guilty of the grossest violation of civil, social and religious canons, the section deemed thus culpable must be regarded as inferior in every respect to the former. If the North is sincere she must inevitably abhor the South. If this is a sentiment compatible with the endurance of a Union avowedly founded on the most perfect political equality and social harmony and fraternity, then we must ignore the history of our revolutionary struggles, our efforts in behalf of a sound government, and our success in the formation of the Constitution of the United States.
That instrument was designed to guide and govern a homogeneous nation—homogeneous in the patrimony of a common country, a common ancestry, and an independence achieved at the point of the sword after years of sacrifice and struggle. The events of the last quarter of a century prove distinctly and undeniably that the people have ceased to be homogeneous. They are divided into two separate sections, no longer animated by feelings of brotherhood, but alienated by animosity and perpetual strife. It is true that both sections are still subjected to the control of the Constitution, and live nominally under the same government; but virtually they are two separate nationalities, differing materially in domestic institutions, manners, habits of thought, and other characteristics. Is it not clear that the word "Union" applied to such antagonisms is little more than a barren name? There is no longer a union of heart and feelings, of patriotism and nationality. The North inveighs against the South, and is barely restrained by some lingering respect for law, and perhaps by a regard for safety, from assailing it with brute force. As it is, she steals our slaves, denies us the right of traveling with them, resists our efforts to recover them when spirited away, foments insubordination and insurrection, and triumphantly proclaims a political platform the leading feature of which is hostility to slavery. The South in vain asserts her equality and demands her rights. Injustice and aggression have engendered their legitimate offspring—alienation and distrust. It would seem impossible for the two sections to live together harmoniously under one Government. Hence the honest conviction of thousands that peaceable separation, effected in good faith and with due observance of equal justice to both sections, is the best, and indeed the only resource left.
The President appears to place confidence in various specifics which he proposes for the cure of the disease in the body politic. The amendments suggested by him are not likely to be adopted, and if under the pressure of the emergency or the pervading sense of self-interest the North could be induced to accede to them, would they not prove but a filmy cover of an ulcerous surface, while the corroding abscess still raged among the vitals of the patient? What is needed is the surgeon's knife to extirpate the canker of fanaticism from the Northern heart. It is one thing to compel a people by the overwhelming might of law to avoid injuring their neighbors, and quite another to sow within their hearts the seeds of brotherly love and charity by which they will be eternally restrained from trespassing on the rights of others.
Our readers will do us the justice to admit that we have been uniformly attached to the Union. We have clung to it undismayed by the silly outcry of "submissionist," or by unworthy insinuations of a lack of patriotic sympathy with the South. Even now we should heartily rejoice if the Union could be preserved with honor and dignity to our aggrieved and oppressed section. GOD grant that the means of consummating the wish may yet be found; but humanly speaking, we must say that we can see none.