Vain Hopes

New Orleans Bee, December 14, 1860

The political charlatans of the North and the patriotic but mistaken public men of the border slave States appear to outvie each other in efforts to discover a remedy for existing evils. They do not perceive that the wound inflicted by the North upon the South is essentially incurable. They think, on the contrary, it may be plastered, and bandaged, and dressed in some sort of fashion and will do very well. The Union is broken in two, but the political doctors fancy that the ruptured extremities can be readily brought together, and that by the aid of the world-renowned "compromise" machine, the integrity of the fractured parts may be completely restored. Without further figure of speech, let us say that we hardly know whether to smile or sigh over the innumerable devices resorted to by members of Congress to save the Union. With just about as much hope of success might they expect to breathe life into a corpse, or look for green leaves, bright flowers, and savory fruit from the blackened and withered trunk of a blasted tree, as imagine that the Union may yet be preserved. This might have been done a few months ago. The Union might have received a new lease of life, had the Abolition party been overwhelmingly defeated in the recent contest; but after its signal triumph to seek to bolster up the Union is as fruitless a task as would be the attempt to teach GARRISON moderation, SUMNER national patriotism, and WILSON the feelings and instincts of a gentleman.

And yet Northern and semi-Southern Congressmen persevere in their well-meant, but useless exertions. One thinks the Union may be saved by incorporating certain amendments in the Constitution, forgetting the impracticability of obtaining the consent of two-thirds of Congress, and the subsequent acquiescence of three-fourths of the State Legislatures. Another proposes the reapplication of the Missouri Compromise line, together with a new provision formally recognizing the right of Southern men to carry their property into the Territories, and to be entitled to protection. A third thinks the object aimed at would be accomplished by banishing the slavery question from Congress—as if the legislative department of the Government could be compelled to confine free discussion to particular subjects, and to exclude others from the wide range of debate. A fourth insists upon a reference of the entire topic to a special committee consisting of one member from each State, and indulges in the chimerical expectation that the members will agree upon some acceptable mode of arrangement. A fifth plainly and honestly confesses that he sees no immediate method of settling the difficulty, but hopes that delay may cool public sentiment at the South, and perhaps effect a radical change.

The inutility of these various plans is sufficiently obvious in the South, though they may seem invested with a certain measure of plausibility to those who propose them. There are two insurmountable obstacles to any theory of compromise with a view of effecting a reconciliation. These are, first, the unwillingness of the North to concede any thing substantial, and secondly, the determination of the South to carry out its policy of a separate nationality. Nothing can be more certain than that the dominant party in the country, viz: The Black Republican—will take no step backwards. A few of their organs, terrified at the prospect of a dissolution of the Union, have talked timidly of repealing Personal [Liberty] bills, and of offering guarantees of future respect for Southern rights, but nothing has been achieved. In the Vermont Legislature an attempt was made to repeal the Personal Liberty act of that State, but the bill to that effect was rejected by a vote of two to one—the Legislature, for the sake of appearances, referring the subject to a committee of investigation prior to adjournment. Meanwhile, a considerable number of Black Republican sheets have openly declared that the policy of the party shall suffer no change, and that its avowed principle of regarding and treating slavery as a sectional institution to which a majority of the people are opposed, shall be steadfastly maintained. This is the prevailing sentiment of the Northern anti-slavery men, and even admitting that there are among them persons disposed to treat the South with some degree of consideration, it is manifest that their influence would be totally unavailing with the mass of the party, and that no recognition of our rights which the South could for a moment entertain will ever be extorted from the faction which has elected ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

But the grand, overwhelming objection to these feeble and fruitless projects is the absolute impossibility of revolutionizing Northern opinion in relation to slavery. Without a change of heart, radical and thorough, all guarantees which might be offered are not worth the paper on which they would be inscribed. As long as slavery is looked upon by the North with abhorrence; as long as the South is regarded as a mere slave-breeding and slave-driving community; as long as false and pernicious theories are cherished respecting the inherent equality and rights of every human being, there can be no satisfactory political union between the two sections. If one-half the people believe the other half to be deeply dyed in iniquity; to be daily and hourly in the perpetration of the most atrocious moral offense, and at the same time knowing them to be their countrymen and fellow-citizens, conceive themselves authorized and in some sort constrained to lecture them, to abuse them, to employ all possible means to break up their institutions, and to take from them what the Northern half consider property unrighteously held, or no property at all, how can two such antagonistic nationalities dwell together in fraternal concord under the same government? Is not the thing clearly impossible? Has not the experiment been tried for more than seventy years, and have not the final results demonstrated its failure? The feelings, customs, mode of thought and education of the two sections, are discrepant and often antagonistic. The North and South are heterogeneous and are better apart. Were we foreign to the North, that section would treat us as our Government now treats Mexico or England—abstaining from interference in the internal policy of a country with which we have nothing to do, and with which we are at peace. As it is, we are persuaded that while the South continues a part of the American confederacy, there is no power which can prevent her progressive degradation, humiliation and spoliation by the victorious North. We are doomed if we proclaim not our political independence.