What Shall Be Done?
New Orleans Bee, November 8, 1860
The election of ABRAHAM LINCOLN is a fixed. fact. The telegraph made known the disastrous result almost before the expiration of the day on which the contest took place. Nor can we say that the event created either marked surprise or consternation. Our citizens had been for some time prepared for intelligence adverse to their hopes. The triumphs of Black Republicanism in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana last month portended too surely the catastrophe in November, to leave more than a feeble hope that by timely and powerful exertion it might be averted, and therefore when the public prints yesterday morning announced a Black Republican victory, they proclaimed what nine-tenths of the community had either openly anticipated or secretly apprehended.
We deem it superfluous at this conjecture to recapitulate the principal causes which have contributed to the defeat of the conservative party. Every one knows that apart from the intrinsic strength of the enemy, its ranks were reinforced by tens of thousands at the North whose sympathies with a national organization had been completely alienated by the protracted, envenomed and most unfortunate quarrel between the rival wings of the Democracy. It is not worth while again traveling over the history of that shameful feud, or discussing the question whether the friends of DOUGLAS or of BRECKINRIDGE most deserved censure. Our opinions on the subject have been repeatedly expressed; but in view of a misfortune common to the whole South, it is wholly unnecessary to persist in an irritating and now absolutely useless controversy.
The fact which stares us in the face, and which all of us, Bell, Douglas and Breckinridge men, have to consider, is LINCOLN's election. We have to look at this not as a subject of speculation, but as an event of actual occurrence. LINCOLN is chosen President, and whether with or without the consent and participation of the South, will be inaugurated on the 4th March, 1861. And what is equally to the purpose, LINCOLN has been chosen legally and constitutionally, without either fraud or violence, simply by the suffrages of an enormous majority of the people of the North. Against the manner of his election we do not exactly see what we can allege. It is true he was a sectional candidate; and equally true that with the exception of Missouri, Maryland and, to a slight extent, Kentucky and Virginia, he polled no Southern votes—but as neither the Constitution nor the laws compel a candidate to receive votes in every State, there can be no just ground for resistance or revolutionary movements on that score.
It may be said that the administration of a Black Republican President must necessarily be of an aggressive character towards the South; and that we should forestall so iniquitous a policy by withdrawing from the Union. This view of the subject is fallacious and extremely shallow. In the first place, we have no right to judge of LINCOLN by any thing but his acts, and these can only be appreciated after his inauguration. Secondly, the attempt to break up the Union, before awaiting a single overt act, or even the manifestation of the purpose of the President elect, would be unjustifiable, unprecedented and without the shadow of an excuse. Thirdly, disunion is an uncertain and a perilous remedy, to be invoked only in the last extremity, and as a refuge from wrongs more intolerable than the desperate means by which they are sought to be relieved. Have we yet suffered from such wrongs? Is it not utterly preposterous to pretend that we are cruelly outraged and oppressed? Where is the proof of these allegations? Let the fiery Secessionists adduce these, if they exist, or close their catalogue of fancied woes. Our wrongs are prospective rather than real, nor can they be inflicted so long as ABRAHAM LINCOLN is rendered practically powerless by an adverse Congress.
What we should do may, in our opinion, be summed up in a single word: WAIT. It will be time to fight LINCOLN with gunpowder and the sword, when we find either that constitutional resistance fails, or that he and his party are bent on our humiliation and destruction. We are for the Union so long as it is possible to preserve it. We are willing to go with Louisiana, but every good citizen is bound to use his best efforts to make Louisiana herself go right. A Southern journal—the Newbern (N. C.) Progress—in commenting on the probable consequences of LINCOLN's election, remarks:
If Lincoln be elected, of which all good men are fearfully apprehensive, there will be but two parties in the South after the conflict is over—one for union and one for disunion—and then it will be found what were the real objects of those who produced the trouble at Charleston in April last. It is needless for us to say that we shall be found battling for the Union as long as the Federal Government respects the rights of the citizens of North Carolina. Now is the time for all patriotic men to choose positions, for soon they must be found on the one side or the other—for the Union or against it.
We echo the sentiment. Let all patriots choose their position; let them resolve to stand by the Union as long as the Federal Government respects the rights of the citizens of Louisiana. We echo, too, the language of that staunch Democrat, Hon. JOHN S. MILLSON, of Virginia, who, speaking of the election before his constituents at Norfolk, said; "Result as it might, in sixty days after it was over there would be no Bell, Douglas or Breckinridge party in the country. There would be but two—a party for the Union and one against the Union. He had sided, and would battle with the former!" And so will the Douglas and the Bell men, and a considerable proportion of the Breckinridge men. They will cordially sustain the Union so long as the North respects the constitutional rights of the South. Hence we say again, let us wait!