New Orleans Daily Crescent, January 21, 1861
There is this difference between the Northern and Southern States, which illustrates the exact nature of the quarrel between the two sections: That, while the Southern States, in the Union, would have interposed no objection to the secession of any Northern State, the Northern States, on the other hand, are thrown into a perfect paroxysm of rage at the mere whisper of an intention to secede, on the part of any State of the South.
Thus, if, at any time within the last ten years, Massachusetts had threatened to leave the Union, the idea, so far from being unpalatable to the South, would have been hailed with the liveliest demonstrations of joy and satisfaction. The South would have bid her go and go quickly, and have esteemed it a happy riddance. But, on the other hand, when any Southern State proposes to leave the Union, Massachusetts becomes intensely disgusted thereat, and considers herself very much insulted and scandalized.
Why is this? Why is it that the South is perfectly willing for the North to secede, while the reverse is true of the North, as respects the South? In social life, when two persons are together; and the presence of one is known to be distasteful to the other, the remedy of withdrawal is universally admitted. But, for the offending and offensive party to follow up the withdrawing party and insist upon forcing his company upon him, when he knows it to be irksome and hateful, is a breach of every canon of good manners and polite society.
When the North tells us that we have no right to withdraw from the Union, we answer that we are perfectly willing to stay in the Union if they themselves will withdraw! We will not question their right to secede, but, on the contrary, will concede it cheerfully. We would perhaps prefer this arrangement to the other. The South, which claims the right of secession for itself, is equally ready and willing to grant the same right to the North; and we will undertake to pledge the Southern States that if those of the North wish to secede from the Union, not only will no objection be raised, but, as to a large majority of them, the secession will be accounted a most fortunate and happy circumstance for us.
But, as the Northern States will not leave the Union, as in common decency they ought to do, seeing that they are so unhappy about the countenance the Union is supposed to give to the institution of slavery, there is no alternative to the South except to withdraw for herself. As it is manifestly impossible for the two sections to get along together in peace and harmony, and as the North, which might withdraw without objection, refuses to do so, we are driven to the necessity of withdrawing ourselves, painful as it appears to be to our loving and considerate friends and brethren of the States of the North.
But, why is there such objection made to the withdrawal of the South? We are told by Abolition orators and organs that the South is a poor, miserable region—that most of the wealth, the enterprise, and the intelligence of the nation is in the North—that the Southern people, as was said by Sumner in the Senate, are identified with, and apologists for, an institution essentially "barbaric"—that our section is unable to support a mail system, and that we are pensioners, to that extent, of the Federal Government—that we are, in short, a semi-civilized, God-forsaken people, a long ways behind the "great North" in the arts, in refinement, in education, in enterprise, and in everything else that constitutes what they call "civilization." One would suppose they would be eager to be relieved of association with a people of whom they have so poor an opinion. So far the contrary, however, they are, as we have before said, mortally offended at the bare idea of our dissolving with them our political connection.
There must be a reason for this, as there is for everything else, and the reason is plain enough. All that they say about the South is false, and, what is more, they know it to be false. They know that the South is the main prop and support of the Federal system. They know that it is Southern productions that constitute the surplus wealth of the nation, and enables us to import so largely from foreign countries. They know that it is their import trade that draws from the people's pockets sixty or seventy millions of dollars per annum, in the shape of duties, to be expended mainly in the North, and in the protection and encouragement of Northern interests. They know that it is the export of Southern productions, and the corresponding import of foreign goods, that gives profitable employment to their shipping. They know that the bulk of the duties is paid by the Southern people, though first collected at the North, and that, by the iniquitous operation of the Federal Government, these duties are mainly expended among the Northern people. They know that they can plunder and pillage the South, as long as they are in the same Union with us, by other means, such as fishing bounties, navigation laws, robberies of the public lands, and every other possible mode of injustice and peculation. They know that in the Union they can steal Southern property in slaves, without risking civil war, which would be certain to occur if such a thing were done from the independent South. And, above and beyond all this, is the Puritanic love of mean tyranny and cold-blooded, inexorable oppression, which the Union enables them to cherish and reduce to practice—coupled with the Pharisaical boast of "holier than thou," which they are constantly uttering as a reproach to the South—both of which feelings are innate in the descendants of the Pilgrims, and have become a part of their nature, which they could not get rid of it they wished.
These are the reasons why these people do not wish the South to secede from the Union. They are enraged at the prospect of being despoiled of the rich feast upon which they have so long fed and fattened, and which they were just getting ready to enjoy with still greater gout and gusto. They are mad as hornets because the prize slips them just as they are ready to grasp it. Their fruitless wailing and frantic rage only serve to confirm the South in her inflexible determination to break up an alliance which is as unnatural as it is, to us, oppressive and degrading.