The Northern Delusion
New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 2, 1860
We have, on several occasions, noticed the strange misconception by the Northern people of the temper and spirit of the South, in respect of a reconstruction of the Union. They continue to assert that the Southern movement is but a temporary frenzy which will soon pass away and be forgotten. They declare, and perhaps believe, that the secession of the Southern States was accomplished by a coup d’etat, a few bold leaders overriding the people, and hurrying them out of the Union before they had time to consider what they were doing. And, reasoning upon this belief, they declare that time and opportunity only are needed to develop the latent Union sentiment of the South, and restore the Gulf States to their former position in the Old Confederacy.All this is a delusion, and a most fatal one. But we are inclined to the belief that the Northern people are not so much to be blamed for making this mistake as we at first supposed them to be. We believe, in many cases, they have reached this conclusion from wrong information given to them from the South! In other words, we have reason to suspect that there are people in the South—in this very city, perhaps—who are constantly writing letters to the North and to the Border Slave Sates, misrepresenting Southern sentiment, and creating wrong impressions with regard to the true state of affairs among us. These letters are handed about and circulated privately, and in some cases extracts from them are published in the papers. We refer to no particular instance, nor do we assert positively, of our own knowledge, that it is a deliberate design to misrepresent. It is merely a suspicion with us, but it is a suspicion corroborated by such circumstances as lead almost to absolute conviction.
The evil effects of this are apparent. The Washington correspondent of the Charleston Mercury states that a leading member of the Peace Conference from a slave State, and a true Southern man, told him that if Congress would adopt the Crittenden proposition, the Gulf States would be satisfied and would return to the Union. The gentleman undoubtedly believed it, and his belief was founded, no doubt, on representations of the sort we have alluded to—representations made by correspondents from Southern States who, either through ignorance or design, have so wrongly interpreted Southern sentiment. It can hardly be wondered at, under these circumstances, that the Border Slave States should cherish the idea of reconstruction—a thing utterly impossible now, if not forever.
This State, more especially, is looked to as being the most anxious to return to the Union, needing only a decent pretext for so doing. How mistaken an idea this is, we need not say. The ordinance of secession passed the Convention by a vote nearly unanimous. It was accepted, all over the State, with feelings of eager satisfaction and relief. Thus far there has been no symptom of dissatisfaction, except here and there in individual cases. No public meetings have been held—no organized expression of hostility to the movement has been heard. The people of this State are free and brave; and it is an insult to them to say that they are living under a “reign of terror,” and dare not give utterance to their honest convictions. If there were such a party here, of any consequence, it would soon make itself heard and felt. And the people here have an undoubted right to complain if popular sentiment, as we think is the case, is misrepresented by letters scattered over the North, and written by submissionists, some of whom, of course, are to be found in every Southern community.We claim for our own opinions no more consideration than is accorded to those of other people. Our assertion, therefore, will go only for what it is worth, when we say that a large majority of the people of Louisiana would not agree that the State should now reenter the Union, under any circumstances whatever. To talk about Crittenden’s proposition, or anybody else’s proposition, or of anything else that looks to a reconstruction of the Union, is the sheerest nonsense and a waste of words. While the Border Slave States are anxiously looking to the Peace Conference at Washington, a large majority of the people of Louisiana feel no more interest in that Conference than they do in the proceedings of the London Board of Aldermen. They believe that it was gotten up for a patriotic purpose, but that the Northern States saw in it a chance for delay, and have merely kept it going until Lincoln could be inaugurated. The Northern people, and the people of the Border Slave States, instead of relying upon the representations of correspondents, would gain a clearer insight into the condition of things here by watching the Southern press and by noting the proceedings of our Legislative Assemblies and Conventions. If there has been any indication, in any quarter of the seceded States, of a disposition to return to the Union on the Crittenden or any other proposition, we have yet to see it. The President of the Confederate States has declared that, in his opinion, the separation ought to be final and perpetual, and every representative man of Southern sentiment has said the same thing. Nearly the entire press of the South says the same thing. Now, then, if people at a distance choose to discard evidence of this sort, and rely upon the loose statements of correspondents, who merely give opinions without showing any basis for them, they may go ahead in their delusion. That’s all.