New Orleans Daily Picayune, January 20, 1861
Mr. Seward is reported to have said, in his late speech in the U. S. Senate, that whoever shall succeed in adjusting the constitution so as to bring peace to the country, and re-unite the States in the bonds of perpetual amity and concord, will win and deserve a greater renown than those who framed it. If the New York prophet believes in his own vaticination, it is but reasonable to suppose he is ambitious of reaping the fame he so glowingly depicts—for Mr. Seward is an ambitious man. Will he aspire to so great renown? Will he undertake the task? Will he indeed labor for its accomplishment in the spirit in which it can alone be obtained? Will he bring himself to the heroic task of throwing himself into the yawning chasm and, like a second Curtius, let the gaping wounds of his country close over his buried body if need be?
The South has regarded him as the arch-demon of an infernal throng. His genius has organized the vagrancies of fanaticism into a code of aggressive principles. He is the author of the pandects of the "higher law." For a long season he alone, of the locust horde of treasonable declaimers, was or even sought to be respectable. He is the leader, the maker, and the manager of the Northern party; for although he lost the nomination of the Chicago Convention, and for a time seemed overslaughed and laid aside, he recovered his position the moment the excitement of the occasion expired, and stands now confessedly the champion of the Republican forces and without a peer. For him to propose a settlement such as would be acceptable to the South, would be to invoke a storm of denunciation from the loose masses which his right hand shaped into a successful organization. Has he the courage to do it?
Mr. Seward knows better than any other man of his party what will be a satisfactory settlement of the troubles that are threatening the country. He knows well that in their adjustment he must approach the subject as though he had never spoken or given a vote upon it. It would be no dishonor to any man who claims to be a statesman to sacrifice his opinions, however sincerely entertained, to the safety of his country. It would only prove that he loves his country more than he does his opinions. He may well ask himself if his theory on any subject is worth the price of revolution, of civil war, and the dismemberment of an empire. Mr. Clay, on an occasion less momentous than the present, offered up the "American system," of which he was the father and the supporter, on the altar of peace. Mr. Clay lived to receive the homage of the Union for an act of devoted loyalty to the interests of his country. Mr. Seward will have to make the same sacrifice, encounter the same risks, buffet a ruder storm, encounter a wilder opposition. Has he the patriotism to do it?
Mr. Seward's sands are running low in the hour glass. But he has time enough, perhaps, to do great good. He may win the imperishable renown he predicts for those who shall heal a broken constitution, and bring back a bruised and scattered people. If he persists in a career which must inaugurate civil war, he can scarcely live to see the end of it. His waning years will be spent in the midst of convulsions which drown the voice of reason, and wars which waste a country he professes to love so much, with sword and brand. He will be harassed by the reflection that he, in a great measure, was the author of the desolation which he beholds. The blasted emblems of his country's prosperity will sear the eyeballs to look upon. His name will be held in execration by the wise and good. If, however, he should succeed in reconciling the differences which now distract us by just councils and amending the constitution so as to make it the guardian and protector of all the rights of all the people, and guarantee the equality of all the States in the Union, he will rescue his name from the political desperadoes who use it for purposes of evil. He will enjoy the satisfaction of being a public benefactor, reap the rich harvest of his own prophetic vision, and close his eyes upon his country's flag emblazoned with other stars and glowing with added light. Has he the wisdom to do it?
We expect nothing from fanatics. Their hearts are stone, their ears are deaf, their eyes are bleared, their breath is pestilence. When did unbridled fanaticism stop short of the stake? When was it sated short of desolation? Its incense is the odor of charring bodies: its revelry the blazing of sacked cities. It blesses the earthquake which swallows up the land; it chimes with the storm that wastes the sea; it consecrates the emissaries who carry firebrands into defenseless places. Not from such do we expect anything, hope anything, wish anything, or fear anything. But Mr. Seward is not a fanatic.
Neither have we anything to say to the soldiers of fortune, the swash bucklers of the abolition camp who hire their lances to the highest bidder, who snuff the spoils before the battle rages. They have nothing to hope from peace, nothing to lose from war. They care nothing for the country, deserve nothing from it and expect nothing from it but the offal of the slaughter. Mr. Seward knows this. He has seen a mercenary whom no one suspected of a sweet tooth, plot his overthrow in the Chicago Convention, because he did not, when Governor of New York, stow with good things a maw which seemed so meek to be so ravenous. He knows that his followers, except the fanatics who will devour him in turn when there is nothing else to prey upon, are composed of the venal of other parties who openly apostatised or secretly deserted their comrades as the tide of hope ebbed from the flow which attracted them to it. He knows they are ready to desert him as well, and will do it when the fortunes of their party wane, or when a pliant tool is needed to spoil the country for the sake of the distribution. Not from such has the country anything to hope. But Mr. Seward is not an adventurer.
Mr. Seward's position is one which enables him to inaugurate measures of pacification in the right quarter. He is too shrewd for a fanatic; above the temptations of an adventurer. He is ambitious, and he is able. Has he the heroism to embalm his name in the memory of posterity at the risk of martyrdom? Has he the patriotism to offer his theories on the altar of his country's peace? Has he the wisdom to devote his talents and great opportunities to the offices of pacification? We know what he is not; believe what he is; where will the sequel find him?